Sheriff: Former jail administrator used county position to leverage federal job

Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 1:47 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - For Sheriff Tyree Jones, it was the final straw.

Jones had just walked into a meeting with jail architects, when his jail administrator, Maj. Kathryn Bryan, played “I Shot the Sheriff” from her cell phone.

“It was very unprofessional and put me in a compromising situation,” he said. “I needed to be separated from Kathryn Bryan and Kathryn Bryan needed to be separated from the county as a whole.”

Testimony continued Monday in an evidentiary hearing that could determine whether the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond will be taken over by the federal government.

Monday marked the beginning of the third week of arguments and the first time that the court has heard from the sheriff.

Jones, who took office in December, talked about everything, from the county’s plans to tackle the jail consent decree, to addressing current conditions at the RDC and increasing staffing levels.

He went into significant detail about his proposal to increase detention worker salaries and implement a step plan to raise officer pay based on years of service. He also touched on the county’s plans to build a new jail.

Much of his testimony, though, focused on Bryan and the court-appointed monitors.

The sheriff said Bryan often worked to “diminish my authority and my administration,” and testified that monitors were biased. He said one monitor, David Parrish, directed him to do something illegal while he was captain over investigations.

A team of monitors was put in place to oversee the county’s implementation of its 2016 jail consent decree and its 2020 stipulated order.

It was unclear what directive Jones was given.

The case was being heard before U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves.

Reeves said he had not heard that the monitors were biased or that one had directed Jones to do something illegal. He asked if Jones had reported that to the court. The sheriff said he reported to his superior at the time, the late Sheriff Lee Vance.

As for the jail administrator, Jones said Bryan would not inform of meetings with jail monitors or court officials and was often insubordinate to him.

Meanwhile, he said Bryan was using her position at the jail to ensure a federal position once RDC was put under federal receivership.

“The culture in detention services is that she would be the receiver and would offer certain (other) people jobs as well,” he said.

Jones mentioned an email exchange between Byran and Priscilla Dawson, the sheriff’s department’s quality assurance coordinator, saying Byran would be a likely candidate for “compliance officer.”

The quality assurance coordinator is a civilian position within the department also responsible for ensuring the county meets decree mandates.

Jones said that correspondence reflected “the fact that the (jail leadership) was more interested in putting the jail in receivership than addressing the needs of my administration.”

Jail Administrator Kathryn Bryan
Jail Administrator Kathryn Bryan(WLBT)

Jones told the court that Bryan kept him in the dark on several meetings involving the jail and did not inform him when Reeves was slated to visit.

He found out through another source that Reeves was visiting the jail and drove to Raymond to meet with him.

The sheriff also was not aware of a meeting in late January between the court-appointed monitors and the architectural firm working on plans for a new jail.

“I didn’t know anything about it. The only reason I found out is because (County Administrator) Kenny Wayne Jones called me and asked me why I wasn’t there. I dropped what I was doing and I drove over there,” he said.

He said about 20 people were at that gathering. When he took a seat, Bryan began playing “I Shot the Sheriff” on her smartphone.

“I found that to be very disturbing,” he said.

Days later, on January 31, Jones made Bryan’s earlier resignation effective immediately.

She submitted her first resignation letter on November 10, in part to wake the county up to problems at the jail, she told the court previously.

Bryan joined the county in June after being recommended for the position by court monitors.

Monitors were put in place by the court to oversee the implementation of the county’s jail consent decree.

Hinds County entered into a decree in 2016 to address unconstitutional conditions at the detention center. Monitors were to serve as the eyes and ears of the court and to provide technical assistance to the county when needed.

Jones said he initially had high hopes about Bryan and met with her and Board of Supervisors President Credell Calhoun shortly after being elected to discuss the role she would play in his administration.

“I made it perfectly clear that I depended on her experience and expertise... in helping me move forward on the decree,” he said. “I called her my ‘field training officer.’”

The sheriff said he made several changes before being sworn in to make Bryan’s job easier, including modifying the chain of command structure so Bryan would report to him directly, rather than going through others.

“It was more fitting with the consent decree itself that the administrator reports directly to the sheriff,” he said.

Jones was sworn in on December 3, 2021, at a special ceremony at the Hinds County Circuit Court.

Jones said he also honored Bryan’s request to appoint several people to command staff positions within the jail.

“I asked her what she needed, and it was a command staff promoted - captains, lieutenants,” he said. “I told the undersheriff we needed to promote those people and it happened that day.”

The sheriff told the court he was working on other plans as well, including one to increase the starting pay for new detention officers and to create a “step plan,” that would raise officers’ pay based on years of service.

Even with those changes, Jones said Bryan was often insubordinate, even refusing to attend a meeting with him to discuss reporting COVID-19 numbers.

Jones had appointed one employee to provide COVID numbers to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

He told the court that Bryan relieved that employee of those duties and that he wanted to have a meeting with her to discuss it.

“She called me back and told me ‘I was not going to attend,’ because she didn’t like the way I handled meetings with subordinates,” Jones recalled.

Jones mentioned other concerns as well, such as Bryan refusing to use her county phone and county email to handle county business.

He said on at least two occasions, Bryan also refused to provide federally mandated services to detainees who had been victims of sexual assault and that she submitted her resignation multiple times.

According to the attorneys for the federal government, the county has failed to implement a program to address sexual assault, and at least four PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) were not properly investigated while the county’s PREA coordinator was on leave.

When the coordinator is on-site, ‘her authority is limited by lack of access to internal affairs department investigations.”

Bryan was at the jail when the coordinator was on leave.

Jones said Bryan did not take action because was not familiar with the county’s PREA policy. However, he said the policy was implemented under the late Sheriff Lee Vance and approved by DOJ.

“I emailed the policy to Bryan to confirm the policy and she acknowledged it was the policy we operated from,” he said.

Bryan initially submitted her resignation to Acting Sheriff Marshand Crisler on November 10, saying that the resignation would be effective in February.

Bryan told Jones that the resignation was still in effect and that she wanted to use that threat of stepping down as “leverage to get some of the things she needed.”

When Jones dismissed her on January 31, though, Bryan said she had rescinded that resignation.

“I told her, ‘I’m the sheriff. If you rescind it, you have to rescind it with me,’” Jones said. “I never got anything in writing.”

A receivership would mean the county would lose control of the jail and could be forced to staffing and facility based on mandates handed down from a receiver. County officials say that a takeover would significantly impact the sheriff’s department’s budget.

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