Juvenile Hall Taking Steps to Avoid Overcrowding
September 12, 2006 -- Fresno County leaders took a big step towards solving the staffing problems at the new juvenile hall.
The juvenile center in Fresno County has a capacity of 480, but there is only staff to supervise 330 inmates.
The center will now be allowed to fill 370 beds, and supervisors say they're committed to expanding that number even more.
Since August, Fresno County has released more than 40 juvenile inmates early. Even though entire buildings at the new justice facility remain empty.
"While we have capacity in that facility, we don't have staffing to expand our capacity," said Chief Linda Penner of Fresno County Probation Department.
Chief Penner came to the Board of Supervisors to ask for help. But she also had to answer questions about who's getting let out.
Now the board is giving Penner the green light to keep more juveniles in custody.
Inmates will soon fill 40 more beds and the county will hire 16 juvenile correctional officers to handle the extra load.
The goal is to avoid overcrowding and a designation by the state that could deem this brand new facility unsuitable.
"We very much want to stay out of the overcrowding mode, use the capacity we have, so we'll furiously to get the staff on board," said Chief Penner.
The challenge is similar to the one at the Fresno County Jail. Where the adult inmate population is also growing.
"If we're releasing felons, if we get into that mode. And it seems like we've been in that mode with juveniles. A car thief, that's a pretty serious crime, usually someone like that, it's not their first time," said Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea.
Penner says her department is also working on mentoring programs to make sure the kids who do make it out, don't come back.
The expansion's expected to cost more than $900,000, but that could be covered because this new facility is expected to save money in other areas.
Penner hopes to have the new staff on board by November.
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