Responding to the Urban Jail in Crisis

Responding to the Urban Jail in Crisis
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2023-04-20
Unit 1Presentation Materials: Responding to the Urban Jail in Crisis
Unit 2Transcript: Responding to the Urban Jail in Crisis
Unit 3Workbook: Responding to the Urban Jail in Crisis
Unit 4Recording: Responding to the Urban Jail in Crisis

The Jackson County Detention Center in Kansas City went through some tough times between 2014 and 2017 as the facility and its leadership were hounded with issues and acknowledged that they were in a state of emergency. Diana Knapp shares the facility’s journey since changes were implemented starting in late 2017 to properly address the crisis.

Diana Knapp is the Director of the Jackson County Detention Center. She has thirty years of criminal justice background having worked with adult and juvenile offenders in secure settings in state, federal, and municipal entities.

Her discussion includes:

  • What Jackson County Detention Center’s jail crisis looks like – the harrowing incidents happening, the state of the facility, the media notoriety, and the public concern over its condition.
  • The makeup and characteristics of the inmates, facility, and jurisdiction that contributed to the crisis.
  • Steps taken to address the issues through funding for facility repairs, clear communication of expectations, trauma-informed and mandatory training, and atypical resources that increase effectiveness.
  • Considerations in re-evaluating organization values that looked into:
    • Rehauling the mission statement that is in disconnect from the actual conditions in the jail.
    • Reliance on “brute force” when dealing with inmates which resulted in excessive use of force.
    • The compromised security of the facility due to deferred maintenance leading to safety concerns.
    • The need for regular and updated training that is at par with national standards.
    • Communicating the leadership’s expectations of staff in terms of customer service, skills, and professionalism.
    • Focusing on prevention rather than aggressive incident response and how treating inmates with respect and dignity is an effective preventive measure.
  • A rundown of the atypical resources used to increase effectiveness by…
    • Valuing diversity through staff representation from across different backgrounds.
    • Leveraging available data to help inform resource allocation and decision-making.
    • Utilizing existing standards such as the Objective Jail Classification to maintain safety.
    • Finding qualified staff by looking at their background, experiences, qualities, and personalities.
  • The facility’s commitment to maintaining integrity in processes which is done through:
    • Allowing data to support and reinforce decisions.
    • Ensuring inmates’ needs are provided for promptly and aren’t frustrated by bureaucracy to attain their needs.
    • Consistent, fair, and impartial execution of staff disciplinary processes that cultivate accountability and buy-in.
    • Constant enforcement of the code of conduct and fostering an environment of self-policing.
  • The tangible results evidenced by reduced workers’ compensation claims made possible through the changes implemented and stringent review of use of force incidents and compensation claims.
  • How a simple change of treating people with respect and dignity made the facility safer.

Questions from the webinar attendees are about:

  • The first step to take to create sweeping changes in an organization.
  • Wellness support for the detention facility staff.
  • Effective ways to restore an organization’s reputation.
  • Managing issues related to staff morale.
  • Addressing excessive use of force and other disciplinary issues.
  • The shift schedule at the Jackson County Detention Center and its impact on use of force incidents.
  • Best practices to manage overtime and understaffing.



Other Webinars with this Speaker



Or, click here to register and view other Jail/Corrections related webinars and recordings on the JCH website.



Resources and Handouts




Audience Comments

  • “That culture change inside an institution is possible!” — Kristina
  • “I loved the ideas about celebrating different groups of staff; such as sports fans, international-born staff, etc. Love that their female leadership ranks are growing – we are always looking for ways to increase our diversity numbers and it is one of our bigger challenges.” — Ronna
  • “It was a very informative session.” — Raja Atif
  • “Excellent.” — Robert



The American Jail Association (AJA) is a national, nonprofit organization that supports the professionals who operate our Nation’s jails. It is the only national association that focuses exclusively on issues specific to the operations of local correctional facilities. The driving force behind the phenomenal growth of AJA is its members. AJA has taken a leadership role in developing the type of programs that promote the professional growth of the dedicated men and women who operate our Nation’s jails.  Jail staff have the responsibility for the management of people who have been charged with violating our laws and often mock the ideals on which AJA was founded. Jail personnel find themselves sorely tested each day in the jail environment when they receive scorn and derision for their loyalty and perseverance under extremely trying circumstances.  AJA takes this opportunity to salute the jail staff of the Nation who, by their dedication to the difficult task of local corrections, have made a vital, positive difference to the welfare of the communities they serve.  Click here to learn more about AJA. 



Additional Resources
1 year ago
Thoughts about Dignity from Diana Knapp
During her webinar, Diana Knapp shared a number of great thoughts during the webinar, Responding to […]
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Thoughts about Culture from Diana Knapp
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After the Webinar: Responding to the Urban Jail in Crisis. Q&A with Diana Knapp
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