400 Inmates to be Released Due to Budget Shortfall

FRESNO, Calif. The Fresno County Jail currently houses about 2,300 inmates. Within the next month, its capacity will shrink by around 400 due to the layoffs of 15 correctional officers and the closure of an entire floor. "Between now and May 3rd we will be reducing the inmate population on that floor," said Mims.

Mims announced the layoffs Monday, just days after she won a lawsuit filed against the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, who rescinded the layoff notices of 23 correctional officers earlier this year.

More than a 130 inmates were released last weekend because of jail overcrowding. Mims said only non-violent offenders are eligible for early release. "Those who are being charged on a third strike are not being released. Those who are being held on what's considered a serious, violent felony, such as murder, rapists, robbery... Those are not being released early. I need to make sure that we keep the most violent, most serious offenders in jail," said Mims.

The union that represents the correctional officers calls the sheriff's actions a bad idea. "Our position is, this is a public safety issue. She's cutting beds in the jail and these people are going to go out on the streets," said SEIU representative Kevin Smith. The union says it made a million dollars in concessions this fiscal year hoping to avoid more layoffs. Now, it wants its money back.

But the sheriff said she made no promises and she's cutting the correctional officers in order to keep deputies on duty answering emergency calls. The sheriff said she was able to lay off 15 officers instead of 23 because of unexpected retirements and resignations. Even so, the cuts only balance this year's budget, for the fiscal year that ends June 30th.

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