Jackson County Prosecutor, Sheriff Express Frustrations With Jail

Sep 27, 2017

Jackson County Jail surveillance video shows inmates allegedly assaulting a guard on the administrative segregation unit in August.
Credit Jackson County Prosecutor's Office

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and  Sheriff Mike Sharp called a news conference Wednesday to say four inmates in the county jail had been charged with assaulting a corrections officer.

But the news conference turned into the two top law enforcement officials in Jackson County expressing their ongoing frustration with a string of problems at the jail. “Everything is a concern at this point. The whole thing is a concern,” says Baker. “We’re fed up with each of our weeks here at the county being filled with the jail as a problem.”

The jail is overcrowded with inmates sleeping on cots in spaces outside of cells. The facility is chronically understaffed, and in April, four former guards were indicted by a federal grand jury for beating inmates. 

Baker and Sharp showed a video of a guard being attacked on Aug. 26 by four inmates in the administrative segregation unit, the fifth floor cell block where the jail sends inmates who have violated the rules.

It shows the four lying in wait for the guard. “That was a coordinated effort by individuals inside the facility to assault that guard," says Sharp. "He was a target.”

The unidentified guard was beaten for almost two minutes before backup arrived, says Sharp. “There was help coming, but the way the jail is built, they’ve got to come up the elevator, come up the stairs and it took a while," he says. "They’re already shorthanded, so they were pulling people together to come assist." 

Only one inmate at a time is supposed to be out of their cell on the administrative segregation unit, but neither Sharp nor Baker knew how all four were out at the same time. There was only one guard on the block. Sharp and Baker say they don't know if another guard is supposed to be on the block. A call to the county spokesperson was not immediately returned.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp and Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker say they're both frustrated with the ongoing problems at the county jail. They announced Wednesday that four inmates have been charged with assaulting a guard.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The guard initially refused medical attention but three days later went to North Kansas City Hospital to seek treatment "due to constant headaches and a sore hand," according to court documents. He had a sprained neck and a fractured finger.

Sharp says all four inmates involved in the alleged assault will be transferred to other jails in the state, making it more difficult for them to be visited by family. "If I have to move you to the boot heel of Missouri, I’ll move you there,” he says.

The four inmates charged are:

  • 20-year-old Stephen A. Curtner
  • 24-year-old Rodney V. Rodgers
  • 20-year-old Osiris N. Sneed
  • 21-year-old Tyrone E. Willard

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR and as a member of the Kansas News Service.  He's also co-host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @samzeff.