Fresno County jail doors swing open again for overcrowding

September 8, 2012 12:51:44 AM PDT
The Fresno County jail's door has swung open again. Just days after opening a new floor of the jail, the sheriff's office has started releasing inmates again because the place is too full.

A few dozen people who are charged with crimes have gotten out of the jail over the last couple days. When the doors of the Fresno County jail swung open Friday, Juanita Eroles pushed her way out. The 56-year-old wasn't exactly thrilled at her own good fortune.

"It's a sad state of affairs when the jail is full and they have to release people early," she said.

After sheriffs opened a floor of the jail Saturday, overcrowding releases basically stopped, but only for three days. By Wednesday, the so-called "revolving door" had swung back open and ten inmates were crowded out.

The suspects coming out are mostly considered low level criminals, but there are arguments to be made to keep all of them locked up.

Jeffrey Deborde is facing two separate court cases, on drug and weapons charges. He has prior convictions, including a recent one for firearm possession by a felon.

Willie Morgan has a current drug possession charge. He was arrested four times, but got released from jail and skipped court every time before he finally entered a not guilty plea this week, then got released again.

And then there's Eroles, she's facing a current misdemeanor battery charge. She skipped court in February, got picked up Friday morning just before ten and was released just after noon.

"My two-hour stint being held," she called it.

Eroles says it's hard to believe who the jail will let out. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer agrees. He says he's pushing county politicians to change their focus a little, finding ways to hold repeat criminals. He also wants them to consider expansion options like opening the Claremont Prison in Coalinga.

"At this point, any facility that has available bed space has to be looked at as an option," Dyer said.

Fresno County supervisors say by the end of the year they'll be giving Sheriff Margaret Mims enough money to open the last floor of the jail she closed a few years ago. But for now, overcrowding releases are the reality once again.

A jail captain tells Action News they'll open 90 new beds here at the jail next week after finishing a construction project in two pods. But at the rate the place filled up this week, that'll only stem the tide of overcrowding releases for two days.


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