Layoffs will force Inmate Releases

August 12, 2009 5:33:19 PM PDT
Layoffs within the Fresno County Sheriff's Department will be forcing the release of more inmates from the Fresno County Jail. And the Fresno police chief fears a crime wave could be coming while the sheriff tries to deal with a budget deficit. The Sheriff said 28 inmates have been released in the last 24 hours because of overcrowding issues. On top of that, the sheriff issued layoff notices to 35 correctional officers who staff the jail. Less manpower means fewer inmates will remain in custody.

Erik Becerra from Fresno said, "They just released me. They just rolled me out ... I was expecting to stay out there for a little bit." Becerra's surprise came early Wednesday morning when he was suddenly released. Becerra landed in the Fresno County Jail two days ago. According to court records, Becerra admitted to being an ex gang member. Officers arrested him after finding a dagger inside his pocket. Sheriff Margaret Mims refuses to estimate how many more inmates will go free as a result of 35 correctional officers receiving lay off notices. Mims said, "I think it's a mistake for anyone to believe we can continue to deliver the same level of service without the budgetary demands that we need."

Mims did guarantee a portion of the jails must be shut down because of reduced staffing. Fresno's Police Chief Jerry Dyer estimated the impending layoffs could close an entire floor at the main jail. Dyer said, "That reduces the capacity of our local jail by 400, therefore people are going to be released early. Those people that are released early will no doubt be involved in criminal activity. Maybe not all of them, but a large percentage."

Mims understands some of the suspected criminals leaving custody might re-offend. Becerra also knows his sudden taste of freedom might not come a second time. Becerra said, "I'm lucky I guess. I don't have to be in there."

Mims also issued layoff notices to 13 community service officers. She hopes through creative staff not all the people will be laid off. The notices take effect August 24.

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