Saturday, the Fresno County Jail added more space. The sheriff's department re-opened a floor. It's the last of three floors which had closed down during tough economic times. The jail now has room to hold 432 additional inmates.
“There are no strings attached to opening up this next floor. As long as we've got the room, we're going to be able to keep criminals,” said Fresno Co. Sheriff Margaret Mims.
Jail overcrowding is a problem our community has been living with for quite a while. It leads to dozens of people getting released hours after being arrested, only to go back out on the streets and steal more cars or break into more homes. Now, the risk of that happening is lower.
“I’m very glad about that,” said Sheriff Mims.
The jail now has a capacity of close to 3,300 inmates. However, nearly a quarter of it is filled with realigned state inmates, who can't be moved. So the county's ability to earmark $3 million to expand the jail alleviates some pressure.
“It’s a big day for Fresno County. A top priority for the board of supervisors was to make this happen and we did,” said Fresno Co. Supervisor Henry Perea.
Supervisor Henry Perea says next up are meetings at the end of the month to look into building a new jail. He hopes to get the money through being awarded state grants.
“We could be eligible for up to $50 to $70 million to help us build a new facility, so we're going to be very aggressive,” said Perea.
An increase in state tax revenue is what helped re-open the jail. Sheriff Mims hopes to never have to close any of it again.
“If we're wise with how we spend we should be able to keep the jail open at its current capacity and maybe plan for additional space,” said Sheriff Mims.
Supervisor Perea says his goal is not to keep adding more jail space, but to create more programs to prevent people from ever going to jail.