With problems mounting at Jackson County jail, corrections director turns in resignation and new leadership is announced

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Joe Piccinini, Jackson County corrections director at the Jackson County Detention Center, turned in his resignation Thursday, and then Friday, Jackson County Executive Frank White held a news conference to announce the change in leadership.

Diana Turner

Deputy Director of Corrections Diana Turner will now serve as acting director. In September, Turner became Piccinini's deputy. She has more than 20 years in the corrections field, overseeing juveniles and adults through positions at the federal, state and municipal levels. Click here for more on her qualifications.

"I am grateful for the faith that County Executive Frank White has in me and that he entrusted me to lead the facility as we continue on the foundations that the county executive and Director Piccinini set of transparency, self-policing, best-practice policy development, the pursuit of ACA accreditation and remediation of the facility's physical plant challenges," Turner said during the news conference.

Turner said she's optimistic the jail will get legislator's support for the jail's 2018 budget to address staffing and retention problems.

Capt. Isaac Johnston will serve in Turner's former position as deputy director.

"We have a shared vision for the safe and secure operation of the jail," Turner said of her new deputy director.

When asked what prompted Piccinini's resignation, White said Piccinini didn't want to be in a position where "things just weren't getting done."

"He felt it would be in his best interest and the best interest of the county that we look for new leadership going forward," White said.

Three days ago, Jackson County legislators demanded White take action to prevent corrections officers from being attacked again by prisoners inside the detention center.

According to court records, 20-year-old Johnny R. Dunlap was in Pod C of the Jackson County Detention Center the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when he assaulted an on-duty corrections officer.  The officer was listed in critical condition after suffering injuries, including fractured facial and nasal bones.

Surveillance video and witness statements revealed the defendant assaulted the corrections officer with a variety of items, including a plastic cone, for several minutes. The victim was unconscious for much of the assault.

Johnny R. Dunlap is charged with attacking a Jackson Co. guard.

Dunlap now faces one count of first-degree assault and one count of armed criminal action.

Click here to read more about the copious examples of recent problems at the Jackson County Detention Center.

The center needs at least 30 more corrections officers to handle the capacity of 780 inmates who are currently housed there. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp says nearly a year ago he offered to have deputies take over transporting inmates, to free up more corrections officers to work in the jail, but he says the idea went nowhere.

White says even a fully staffed jail will have problems such as assaults when there are crowded conditions. He says he’s moving forward to improve conditions in the jail that he believes will be sufficient for the next three to five years while new jail options are studied.