Early Inmate Releases Hurts Fresno Bail Bondsmen

FRESNO, Calif.                   |   Watch Video Above for Extended Coverage   |

The early releases are frustrating for both correctional officers and bail bondsmen. Bondsmen have seen business drop by more than half. They said their job is more valuable than some may think.

As inmates like Chano Zuniga walk out of custody, correctional officers forced to set them free are shaking their heads.

Correctional Officer Josie Ruiz said, "When they are booking people, some of the inmates are telling them, hey I'm going to be out before you go home tonight, ha ha ha. You know its things like that they are hearing and hooray for Mims on the way out the door because they are getting released."

Nearby, the owner of Lucky Bail Bonds said business has dropped by 65%. He said his role is actually important in making the system work. It doesn't use taxpayer funds and makes inmates hold true to their promises.

Barry Pearlstein said, "The bail industry makes sure that the defendants who are released from custody are then held accountable by appearing in court and if they don't appear in court, it is our obligation to apprehend them and return them to the jurisdiction of the court within 180 days."

Sheriff Margaret Mims said so far 95% of inmates set free early have, in fact shown up to court. She believes the releases are only a brief reprieve.

Sontaya Rose asked, "When you see the inmates walking out and they are thanking you, how does that make you feel?"

Sheriff Mims replied, "Well when the inmates walk out they have a court date so they are going to be in the system, so now it's up to them, do they want to come back to jail and be part of the system again or do they want to take the opportunity from this and straighten their lives again."

But so far, many inmates have been released to return only hours or days later. Correctional Officers said the Sheriff could do more to save jobs and hold criminals in custody.

Officers said these days' inmates have plenty to say, "They are telling the officers working the pods hey you are going to lose a job and I'm going to get out. What do you feel about that? So our officers have to work with that."

Mims contends no matter what cuts she made, there's no way she could meet her budget without major layoffs.

As of Monday Mims said there are just over 21 hundred inmates in custody. Her goal is to have 1700 inmates by February 7th so close to 12 hundred inmates could be set free altogether.

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