Community Concerned about Early Releases

August 24, 2009 7:18:16 PM PDT
The Fresno County Sheriff's department now has 43-fewer employees which has forced the early release of jail inmates. And that's not sitting well with the public.An Exclusive Action News poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows 88-percent of Fresno County Residents are very, or somewhat concerned about the early inmate release.

The lay offs are having an immediate impact at the jail. Almost 500 fewer inmates are being housed compared to one year ago. An Exclusive Action News polls shows most people aren't happy with county leaders letting suspected criminals go free.

At the stroke of midnight, these correctional officers walked out with their uniforms in hand. This was their last shift working at Fresno County's jail. Sheriff Margaret Mims spoke to Action News over the phone from Washington DC. Mims said, "I'm also concerned and I hope when the state budget comes out, we don't take additional hits."

Sheriff Mims expressed her feelings after 30 correctional officers lost their job. An exclusive poll conducted by SurveyUSA asked 535 Fresno County residents: "Do you think county supervisors and the sheriff did all they could to avoid the early release of inmates?" 20-percent answered: leaders did all they could. But a majority 67-percent said supervisors and the sheriff could have done more. Mims said, "No matter what I cut, it was going to have an impact on the public. So there's no easy decision to make that was going to be good."

The jail is without a doubt holding fewer inmates. We looked into the jail's population. One year ago on August 23, 2008 more than 3-thousand 3-hundred inmates were in custody. This past Sunday the jail's population registered at more than 28-hundred. When you subtract the numbers, exactly 465 fewer inmates are being house because of budget cuts and overcrowding issues.

13 community service officers were also laid off. The union representing former employees is now looking into filing a complaint with the public employment relations board- with the goal to reinstate the officers.

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