Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. announced December 1, that Joe Piccinini has resigned as Director of the Department of Corrections.
“Today, director of corrections Joseph Piccinini offered me his own resignation, which I have regretfully accepted,” White said.
“I am grateful for Joe’s service to Jackson County and the Department of Corrections. He accepted responsibility of our operations in the midst of an ongoing FBI investigation, with staff making a starting wage 38% below the market rate and what we would later learn, a facility in need of $150 million in repairs,” he said. “But, at this point, Joe does not want to be a distraction because his priority is to fix the problem and ensure our corrections facility reaches the level of excellence our staff, inmates and community deserve.”
“He is a man of integrity, compassion and respect,” White said. “His experience and drive to make a difference empowered him to accept the director of corrections position, despite the uncertainty surrounding the facility and its operations. It was important for him to be open and transparent.”
“Joe cared, he cared about the facility, he cared about the corrections officers, he worked for higher pay for officers, he also cared about the inmates and I think that is something. Before Joe came there was no transparency,” he said.
“Together, we made safety and security our top priority. We’ve invested in significant infrastructure repairs, improved training for corrections officers and increased starting pay for corrections officers,” he said. “Both Joe and I know there is much more work to be done to reach the level of excellence our staff, inmates and community deserve. But in order to get there, Joe believes the corrections department needs new leadership. So he is stepping down.”
Piccinini was appointed to serve as the director of corrections by former County Executive Mike Sanders in December 2015. Prior to that, he served as the Chief of Police for the Lee’s Summit Police Department, where he spent more than 30 years cultivating a career of public service. Starting his career as a probationary officer and quickly moving up the ranks.
Piccinini said in a statement, “I’ve been honored to serve Jackson County during a critical time of change for one of its most essential functions. I commend the County Executive for his steadfast leadership to get things done. I couldn’t be more proud to work with men and women who have made great sacrifices in the name of progress for the betterment of our community.”
Diana Turner will serve as the acting director of corrections. She became the deputy director two months ago, but has devoted her life to a career to public safety that has spanned the municipal, state and federal levels. She most recently served as Director of Residential Services for the Jackson County Family Court. During her tenure, the two juvenile detention facilities for which she was responsible achieved reaccreditation. Both are positioned to successfully pass an American Correctional Association (ACA) audit in 2018.
Captain Isaac Johnston will step in as the acting deputy director of corrections. His public safety career includes serving as the warden of two facilities, including the Leavenworth Detention Center, which houses maximum security inmates. The other was a Correctional Treatment Facility in Washington, D.C.
“Diana and Isaac, combined, have more than 50 years of experience in corrections,” White said. “Both work hard to form relationships with staff and inmates to establish a culture of respect. I have complete confidence in their ability to be effective leaders, while we conduct a nationwide search for a new director.”
Turner thanked Piccinini for the opportunity to serve as his deputy. “It was an honor and I am truly disappointed that he has chosen to resign but I understand and respect his decision. 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 the County Executive and Director Joe Piccinini set of transparency, self-policing, best practice policy development, the pursuit of ACA accreditation, and remediation of the facility’s physical plant challenges.”
“I am optimistic that we will secure the support of the legislature for our 2018 budget to address our staffing and retention problems by providing the funding for a competitive starting wage for our associates and salary adjustments for our veteran personnel,” she said. “We look forward to the continued support of the Court, Prosecutor and Law Enforcement to mitigate our longstanding overcrowding and I believe all signs point to their commitment in this mission as well.”
Turner also thanked Capt. Johnston for agreeing to act as deputy director. “We have a shared vision for the safe and secure operation of the jail. He is highly competent, is well-respected by our Detention staff and I have complete confidence in his ability to step up to the duties of Deputy Director.”
She then expressed her pride in key Detention Center associates, “I am so proud of their professionalism and dedication to duty. They have what is arguably the toughest job in the state of Missouri and I am honored to be a member of their team. I want to thank them in advance for their support in our new responsibilities and let them know that Mr. Johnston and I will be working hard on their behalf.”
In hiring a new director, White said it is very important to find someone who has a strong corrections background and has a passion for that type of work. Also, someone who has a passion for the community for the corrections officers that work in the facility and a passion for safety and security.
Turner will take over as acting director effective immediately with Piccinini staying to help with the transition process.