Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin defends new jail policy

MERCED, Calif.

Sheriff Pazin says it's really a matter of money. He says the corrections budget can only handle up to 600 inmates, and right now the county's two jails hold about 700. So he made a controversial decision to stop accepting parolees without fresh charges.

Sheriff Mark Pazin says Merced County's two jails are filled with inmates who shouldn't be there... suspects who have manipulated the court system to delay being sent to prison.

He said, "This was a cold blooded killer convicted by the DA's office that was allowed to stay in the Merced County jail."

Sheriff Pazin says those types of inmates plus those now serving time here under prison realignment have pushed the jails beyond what the county can afford. That's why he decided Tuesday the facilities will no longer accept parolees without fresh charges -- in most cases.

"This was not any type of intended issue with the local law enforcement or police chiefs," Sheriff Pazin said. "This was a state parole directive."

But the move did upset police chiefs across the county who said they had no warning or chance to discuss the impact with the sheriff.

Lt. Tom Trinidad said, "It's concerning, I know the chief for management and planning he wants to prepare us for this, and I'm sure he wishes he had a little more forewarning on it."

Many residents are also worried about giving parolees too much leniency. That includes Atwater business owner Jim Price.

He said, "It's going to be a very difficult thing for this community to come to grips and understand that parole violators or anybody that can't be housed in an appropriate facility is going to be devastating to this area here."

But Sheriff Pazin insists he's not putting the public at risk.

He said, "We are not going to expose Merced County citizens to all these packs of wild dogs that are roaming the streets, the two legged ones, and that if they need to go to jail and they have an additional charge that couples their parole violation, we will accept it."

Sheriff Pazin pointed out today Fresno and Tulare counties already have a similar policy when it comes to parole violators.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.