Massive Inmate Release | $6 Million Cut from Budget

August 26, 2008 6:25:50 PM PDT
Fresno County's Sheriff is threatening to release hundreds of jail inmates and cut jobs after the Board of Supervisors chopped $6-million from the county budget. Local leaders fear a major increase in crime with hundreds of inmates on the streets. Fresno County's sheriff is facing the biggest cut. It's an alarming development for at least one police chief.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Fresno County Supervisor Susan Anderson said on Tuesday at a board meeting, "We have to reduce our spending because we have less money to spend. It's as simple as that." Supervisor Anderson blames a shrinking budget on the economy. All the county's department heads filled a room to hear the board of supervisors vote to dramatically reduce spending.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims summed up her feelings in front of the supervisors. She said, "My request to the board is make a decision. Let us live with it and don't interfere." Sheriff Mims has been forced to cut her spending by $2.8-million. Mims said she will lay off 20 correctional officers and release 837 male inmates. With those suspected criminals on the streets, the sheriff plans to shut down two floors of the downtown jail. Mims said, "We don't release anybody that is violent (like someone who commits) a sexual assault. Those kinds of offenders don't get released, so we're looking at drug possession those kinds of offenses."

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said, "It would have a devastating impact to our community." Chief Dyer fears the city's crime rate could explode. Even with that threat, Dyer said his department won't let up, "We're going to continue to arrest those individuals committing crimes. We will not allow the counties budget crisis to cause us to do things differently as a police department."

Supervisor Perea was the only one who voted against the cuts. Unless they find more money, the sheriff said it would take a few weeks to start the lay offs and begin releasing inmates.

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