Temporary Fix Halts Early Releases

September 9, 2008 6:08:38 PM PDT
County supervisors agreed to give Sheriff Margaret Mims nearly three million dollars that they cut from her budget this summer. The deal gives Mims less than half of what she wanted. Without a State Budget, she calls this a temporary solution.In their first meeting, since dozens of inmates walked out of the county jail early ... Fresno County supervisors agreed to a temporary solution. The deal ... the county will return 2-point-8 million dollars cut from the sheriff's budget avoiding the layoff of 50 correctional officers. Mims, though, told supervisors, with the state budget crisis looming, she cannot promise supervisors "this" agreement spells the end of early releases.

Margaret Mims: "I can't make that commitment today. That 2-point-8 is temporary I said that before I'm consistent in my message."

Henry Perea, Fresno County Supervisor: "I'm disappointed in that because it leaves the door open to the early release of prisoners because of budget. That's completely unacceptable as I said before that's playing Russian roulette with public safety."

But supervisor Perea admits he thinks the county should have no problem coming up with the whole 6 million that Mims says she needs to keep her department whole. However, protecting public safety he says will come at a price.

"It's going to mean not filling positions, maybe delaying the filling of positions, possibly reducing overtime costs, travel expenses."

Without a major influx of inmates, Mims meantime expects the new money will mean no early releases until at least November. But that is not stopping Mayor Alan Autry. Despite the deal, he says the city will still pursue a lawsuit that would block further releases.

Alan Autry, Fresno Mayor: "One thing I like more than being mayor is sleeping at night. I would just not sleep at night that I left here knowing this serious flaw in the system is putting people and their families in jeopardy."

Mims says she's already made budget cuts totaling more than seven million dollars. She's optimistic that she can work with the county to find more solutions.

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