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Female warden works toward safety for female inmates

Warden Hope Cooper took over full-time after the departure of Richard Koerner

By C1 Staff

TOPEKA, Kan. — The Topeka Correctional Facility has a new warden at the helm, and with her is making steps towards better safety for female offenders inside the walls of the prison.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Warden Hope Cooper took over full-time after the departure of Richard Koerner. Koerner was transferred within the Kansas Department of Corrections after a sex scandal involving staff members and inmates at TCF was revealed.

The U.S. DOJ and Kansas have since announced a series of reforms to protect female inmates from sexual victimization.

Cooper has a new program in place called PAR, which requires staff members and inmates to be professional, accountable and reliable. She also had security and IT evaluate the surveillance system and ended up installing 300 new cameras to ensure that every available space was covered.

A video monitoring room and increased access to the cameras was also installed.

The facility also added 24 more correctional officers in the past two years. Currently TCF is looking to add more female correctional officers. Around 60 percent of correctional officers at TCF are male.

Cooper is also looking to further enhance staff training by asking staff questions and increasing on-the-job training.

TCF was found to be 100 percent compliant with PREA in 2014.

An independent, out-of-state monitor has begun an administrative review of TCF and will oversee the implementation of the agreement between the DOJ and KDOC. The monitor will make a site visit in February to verify reform compliance and the general atmosphere of TCF. The monitor’s pay is drawn from the KDOC budget.

Cooper said the monitor will give “fresh eyes” at the facility.

Beside adding a female warden, the new investigative supervisor is also a woman.

“We have added females in some key positions,” she said. “We have great staff here. They want to do what is best. We are going to keep moving forward. We continue to strive, to learn, to be the best.”