Fresno County Jail stops the revolving door

FRESNO, Calif.

432 beds are ready to go, for inmates to serve their prison sentences in the Fresno County Jail. It's part of state assembly bill 109.

The extra space is for intended to relieve overcrowding in state prisons, by sentencing some felons to serve their sentences locally. But, for the meantime, it means every person arrested, won't be released right away.

Brand new bed mats are stacked up and ready for hundreds of inmates at the Fresno County Jail.

At 6:00 Saturday morning the fourth floor will no longer be empty. And the average 50 inmates that walk out of jail everyday due to overcrowding won't be leaving so soon.

Scott Jones, Fresno County Undersheriff said, "In our meetings what we see is it should slow down significantly if not go to zero. But you got to realize it depends on who comes through that door and how they fit into the scheme of things."

Jail administrators have spent the past few months planning how the process will work, along with preparing the facility and ramping up staffing to open up the floor.

The space is intended for nonviolent, non sex and non-serious offenders serving sentences. Criteria for AB 109 inmates is the crime must be a felony and punishable by a state prison sentence of 16 months, or 2 or 3 years.

Even though the floor is funded through the state, it is also available temporarily for inmates serving time for misdemeanor and felony crimes.

"It's not just going to be AB 109 inmates," said Jones. "Because an AB 109 inmate could come in and have to be a lockdown or max inmate."

Inmates awaiting sentencing are some of the first set free when the jail reaches capacity. These include low level offenders like auto thieves and burglary suspects. The new bed space has been designated for low to medium security inmates, so many serving time for nonviolent property crimes can expect an extended jail stay.

This is just the first phase of the jail re-opening floors to meet state 109 guidelines. Next April, another floor will also open up with 432 additional beds.

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