Fresno DA Concerned with Inmate Release

September 4, 2008 8:33:13 PM PDT
Concern is growing as more inmates walk out of the Fresno County Jail early because of budget cuts.The county's top prosecutor says she has major issues with prisoners being set free before they go before a judge.

Bare bunks inside here are proof of the early releases. The police department says they want to reassure the public, they'll be checking up on many of these released inmates.

More than 3-thousand inmates are locked up in the Fresno County Jail and each one released is a big concern. District Attorney Elizabeth Egan says there's no guarantee, they'll return.

Elizabeth Egan, Fresno County District Attorney: "You can tell by the reaction of inmates released, they don't want to go back. So some of them, are gonna be gone. They're not gonna be around, we're gonna have to rearrest them and that poses danger to our frontline law enforcement."

Supervisor Henry Perea told action news it's premature for the Sheriff's Department to be releasing inmates.

Henry Perea, Fresno County Supervisor: "I think it sends the wrong message to be releasing prisoners before they need to be released."

Perea now says he expects the board will be giving the sheriff's department 2-point-8-million dollars back next Tuesday.

But even with that, Undersheriff Scott Jones says inmates will still need to be freed early.

Scott Jones, Undersheriff: "2.8 only gets us halfway there. Almost halfway what the sheriff needs to keep them there, all the jail. So we would only release inmates off of one floor instead of two."

"Each day as more prisoners are being released its leaving pods like this one empty. 800 prisoners in all could be set free and already some have been re-arrested."

"These releases cause an immediate danger to the public, I believe. They cause intimidation to witnesses and victims which make it harder to prosecute when we do get them back in court."

Jonte McAllister is serving 100 days for violating probation. Since it involved domestic violence, he isn't expecting an early release. But plenty of others are hoping to get a pardon.

Jonte McAllister: "Well I hope I get to go home. Wow, that was bed 45, I'm bed 46, I hope I'm next, you hear that a lot."

The police department wants to know the identities of inmates set free, late Thursday Fresno PD delivered a request to the sheriff's department asking for a list of inmates released, to follow up on their status.

Jeff Cardinale, Fresno Police Dept.: "Our research has shown that property crime suspects have a 70 percent chance of recommitting crimes. If we're seeing 40-50 people released each day, that's 30 to 40 of these people that are going to recommit crimes primarily in the city of Fresno."

One inmate released early went before a judge Thursday and the judge issued a note stating that inmate must not be re-released again until he serves his complete jail time.

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