Fresno County working to ship prisoners to other counties

FRESNO, Calif.

When the third floor of the Fresno County jail reopened just three weeks ago, it added space for four-hundred inmates, but it stopped the early release of inmates due to overcrowding for just three days.

Sheriff Margaret Mims says even when the fourth floor is reopened, adding hundreds more beds, it won't be long until she needs help. She said, "I've already asked other counties, other sheriffs if they do have room in their jails and what the cost would be and if they have a sample contract."

But such transfers will cost more money. So Sheriff Mims will go before the board of supervisors next week for their permission to put a tentative plan in place. Such contract with other counties could take months to implement so Supervisor Henry Perea hopes his fellow board members will act quickly.

Supervisor Henry Perea explained, "The worst thing we could do is have the sheriff come in two or three months from now and say I need this ability to move prisoners to other county jails and we have to wait four months to do it then."

Sheriff Mims says the request for more space should not come as a surprise, since the need for a new jail has been known for years.

"We will have a need," Sheriff Mims said. "In fact, in 2008 a jail needs assessment went to the board the county paid almost a quarter of a million dollars for a beds needs assessment and it predicted a need for 15-hundred more beds by this time, and that has been born out that has been a fact that we need those additional beds, however construction of a new jail was $500 million at that time."

So, transferring prisoners will cost less, than building a new jail. The sheriff has so far just received one response. Nevada County has room for inmates, but its 250 miles away. The sheriff is hoping for some closer accommodations.

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