Fresno Co. Budget Cuts Could Affect Your Safety

5/20/2008 Fresno, CA "Where I see us heading is breaking a system that's already desperately broken," says Probation Director, Linda Penner.

Fresno County's Chief Probation Officer and District Attorney pulled no punches as they asked supervisors to reconsider cuts to public safety.

Millions meant for the justice system are in jeopardy as the county looks for ways to make up for an 18-million dollar shortfall in property and sales tax.

County Supervisor, Susan Anderson, says "We cannot spend more money than we have and that's just the reality that we're in."

A rough draft of next year's budget would force the district attorney's office to trim more than two million dollars, probation four and a half million, the sheriff's department would have to cut more than 11-million dollars, and the public defender's office nearly one-and a half million.

District Attorney Elizabeth Egan, says "There are straight and simple consequences to not having the Deputy D.A's to work the cases." D.A. Egan says she would have to cut nearly 50 jobs, making it harder to prosecute criminals in the time required by law.

"It simply means we have fewer people to do prosecutions of criminals in the county which means criminals will be on the streets," says Egan.

The probation department says it too would be forced to cut jobs while closing the Elkhorn Correctional facility. A boot camp for juvenile offenders the department says has a 70-percent success rate.

Penner says, "At a time when the justice system is overburdened it's not prudent to get rid of a program that' are impacting the inflow into the jails and the prison system."

Board Chairman Henry Perea says public safety remains priority number one. But he adds other county departments like behavioral health have already made millions in cuts. "Many would argue they're not bearing the brunt of this. The bottom line is we have had all the non justice over the past five years reduced to the point that they're non-operational," he says.

The budget committee now plans to make the tough choices behind closed doors before budget hearings begin next month.

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