Fresno County Sheriff to Layoff 48

July 28, 2009 11:29:10 PM PDT
Budget cuts have already forced the Sheriff to close one floor of the Fresno County Jail. That means room for fewer inmates. In the past week and a half 58 inmates have been released early.Sheriff Margaret Mims says low risk offenders are the only ones who will be let out. "One thing I've promised is not to release sentenced inmates. These are pre-sentenced people who are waiting some kind of court proceeding."

But one of those released early, Jose Reyes, is now back in jail on murder charges. He was originally jailed for auto theft, and was considered a low risk offender. More inmate releases could be coming. The Sheriff says 35 Corrections Officers, who work in the jail will be laid off by the end of August.

"My budget was slashed. I have to absorb pay raises, retirement increases, all kinds of increases that weren't funded I have to absorb, I can only absorb so much before it means bodies." Mims said.

Mims says no Deputies will be laid off. Corrections officers are not law enforcement officers. County Supervisor Phil Larson believes the Sheriff has no choice. "We're in tough budget times, and I know the citizens are unhappy and say find the money, I don't know where it's at." Larson said.

Mims says steps will be taken to minimize inmate releases because of a lack of staff, and space. But the jail is under a Federal order to prevent over-crowding. The Sheriff's Department is facing a more than $3 million dollar budget shortfall.

"We need to open up all the floors, We need to staff all the floors we have to make sure we don't release inmates. However, that's not happening." Mims said.

The layoffs are expected to take effect at the end of August. The sheriff says efforts will be made to limit any early releases of jail inmates.

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