An audit of the Topeka Correctional Facility (TCF) performed last November by the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) states that the facility is ensuring the safety and security of staff and residents.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons withdrew all female inmates serving federal sentences at state-operated Topeka Correctional Facility last October in the wake of an investigation into sexual abuse among inmates and the staff.
Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) Secretary Ray Roberts requested the audit.
“There were serious concerns surrounding the safety and well-being of the inmates held at the Topeka Correctional Facility when my administration took office, but as this independent audit found, solid progress has been made during the past two years,” Brownback said upon receiving the audit. “I have a ‘zero tolerance policy’ toward sexual abuse in all state correctional facilities. The Kansas Department of Corrections has worked diligently to ensure a safe, secure environment for the inmates, as well as for the people who work there.”
Warden Hope Cooper, who assumed leadership of the facility in August of 2011, was commended by the panel for her efforts.
Prisons nationwide are instituting widespread changes in response to recent federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) laws. Many new policies instituted by TCF in the past six months were reviewed by the panel. The audit commended the facility for:
- Informing inmates of sexual abuse and misconduct policies and preventatives
- Instituting a confidential phone hotline within the facility to report staff and inmate misconduct
- Changing to strictly same-gender pat searches, which were found to be performed appropriately
- Enhancing policy and procedures for reporting sexual misconduct
- Ensuring adequate staff training
- Greatly increasing the number of surveillance cameras and the use of video surveillance to ensure a safe and secure environment
The audit identified a few areas needing improvement, particularly the process by which inmates file grievances. Staff expressed a concern for inmate “idleness,” and the inmates themselves requested more of the programs they found favorable – mental health and religious services, and educational and mentoring programs.
The recruitment of more female staff is essential to meet TCF’s goals. At present, just over half of the corrections officer I staff is female.