Local

Reducing early releases at Fresno County jail

Thursday, May 03, 2012

According to the sheriff's office, in 2009, 751 inmates were released from the county jail because of overcrowding. By the end of last year, that number had increased dramatically, to almost 17-thousand.

Assemblyman Henry T Perea says AB1393 would solve a growing problem in Fresno County and across the state. "This bill will give local law enforcement the tools they need to ensure that criminals who are breaking the law remain behind bars."

The bill would allow criminals who are constantly getting arrested for crimes like auto theft, and burglary to be shipped and held in a less crowded jail in a nearby county.

Perea says the bill is getting strong support at the state level. There is a snag on the local level.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims is against the legislation. She was noticeably absent from a press conference held Friday morning. "I think there's a lot of work to be done, I do not support it as it's written. I was not consulted or called, this was a surprise for all counties, all 58 counties in the state because this would affect us all."

The sheriff insists she is not against keeping repeat offenders in jail longer. But points out agencies like the Fresno Police Department would also be responsible for getting inmates to court on time, transporting them and making sure the process is secure.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says the bill is a way to keep criminals like Tino Tufono in jail longer.

Tufono was released 12 times in a year for property crimes before police say he shot and killed Jacob Ramirez.

The chief says a lack of immediate punishment often results in escalating and more violent crimes. "We have an obligation and a responsibility to the citizens of our community and that is to keep them safe and if we have a law on the books that prevents us from keeping them safe then we need to change that law. And that's what we're doing"

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin said, "In an era of diminishing resources, we've got to be creative, we've got to be flexible and we have to challenge the status quo."

Dyer says he his department has already talked with Madera County officials. He says they have extra space and are willing to house inmates arrested by Fresno Police officers. His department is also talking with other counties about arranging similar deals.

Perea says if the bill is passed, it would likely go into effect early next year.

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Tags:
fresno, fresno county, ashley swearengin, jerry dyer, sheriff margaret mims, local
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