City of Fresno approves jail cell lease with county

FRESNO, Calif.

This arrangement involves just five beds in the county jail at over $100 per bed that's nearly $200 thousand a year. Fresno's police chief believes it's a small price to pay, but there are questions as to why the city would have to pay the county to keep people locked up.

Chief Jerry Dyer told the City Council the same thing he told the Board of Supervisors when they approved the deal earlier this week. He believes by setting aside just five beds for the city's worst car thieves and burglars will make a big difference in crime.

"The alternative is to see those same prolific thieves being released daily stealing cars and breaking into homes," explained Chief Dyer.

Fresno City Council Member Lee Brand like the idea so much he proposed an even higher number. "If we had 25 beds that would have a huge impact don't you think?"

Chief Dyer responded, "25 beds would have a significant impact on property crimes in our city."

But Council President Blong Xiong worried the concept of the city now paying for what is already a county function.

"I'm not sure this is a precedent I want to set," said Blong Xiong. "I'm concerned what's the message to our employees, to our residents and what we are trying to do. And so this is an extremely tough decision for me."

The reason the city would have to pay to guarantee space in the jail is because the jail is under federal orders to prevent overcrowding and as a result releases dozens of prisoners early every day. However, Sheriff Margaret Mims told the council if the city actually contracts for the five beds, the prisoners assigned to those beds would be exempt from the crowding rules.

"I'm just here in wholehearted support of this contract," said Sheriff Mims. "It follows the same model we have had for 20 years for the Federal government to hold Federal inmates."

The council approved the deal, as a pilot project, to see if it actually reduces crime.

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