Fresno County jail prepares for influx of low-level felons

FRESNO, Calif.

Assembly bill 109 goes into effect next month. It calls for non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual offenders to serve time in county jails instead of state prisons.

County supervisors expressed many concerns but felt they had to approve the $8.8 million dollar plan.

Two floors of the Fresno County Jail which had been closed because of budget cuts will soon re-open. Fresno County Undersheriff Scott Jones said, "We'll open one floor in the north annex jail on October 1st. That will open up 432 jail beds and then on April 1st we'll open another floor in the north annex jail and that will be another 432 for a total of 864 beds."

46 correctional officers will be hired including 23 officers who had been laid off. The plan covers a nine-month period.

Chief Probation Officer Linda Penner said Fresno County will also establish a day reporting center. It will be used to supervise California Department of Corrections prisoners who would have been released to state parole.

Penner explained, "They are now coming to the county probation department for post-release community supervision. The first month we get 110 of those individuals. "

But Supervisor Henry Perea wondered if the re-opened jail floors will quickly be overcrowded with local prisoners and state parolees who re-offend. Perea asked, "Is that going to fill the jail quickly and then we're still in a release situation with these folks coming back if they re-offend?"

Penner replied the plan over-budgeted for bed space.

"The projections to the sheriff's bed space at full implementation of ab109 should be about 571 prisoners on any given day."

County leaders expect the state to double its funding next year but worry because future money is not guaranteed.

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