New floor at Fresno Co jail set to open

January 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
If you get arrested within the next few days, there's a good chance you won't walk out of the Fresno County jail hours later.

A new jail floor is opening tomorrow morning to accommodate hundreds of additional inmates.

The floor is designated for male inmates who are classified as minimum security. Starting Saturday at 6 a.m. there will be new room for 432 inmates.

The final floor will be reopening again at the Fresno County jail. Inmates who were just getting booked and released can plan on a longer stay for now.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims Says it's hard to estimate exactly how long it will be before inmates will again be set free for overcrowding.

"The first floor that we opened filled in 14 days. The next floor we opened filled in 10 days. We were down on our releases to about 30 a day, down from 70 a day just by opening those floors," Mims said.

The sheriff hopes it will take at least a few weeks to fill the floor.

The floor will bring jail capacity to 3,289. Of the population, about 70 percent are inmates awaiting trial or sentencing, the other 30 percent are sentenced and serving their punishment.

The sheriff opened the floor using nearly three million dollars from the state and also the county general fund. With it, she hired correctional officers and medical staff needed to handle the population increase.

The second floor of the north jail hasn't been used for several years. Six pods will be opening up to house 432 more inmates.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says his agency makes about 50 felony arrests. Many are set free almost immediately after they are booked. He says the additional bed space will be most appreciated by victims of crime.

"There's a lot of frustration in our community from people that have been victimized. I get the phone calls, the emails, I'm certain that the sheriff does as well,' Dyer said.

Action News tracked jail releases over the past month. It ranged from just 12 inmates being let go early on December 26th, to 70 inmates walking out due to overcrowding on December 18.

Both the sheriff and police chief say they are hopeful that in the future a local jail can be built to house more low security inmates like car thieves and burglars.