Sheriff Margaret Mims' plan to build a new jail facility in Fresno County is gaining momentum. Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors agreed to allow the county to apply for millions of dollars in state funding to help build the facility. The state set aside the grant money to help counties struggling with AB 109 and an influx of inmates.
In a unanimous vote by Fresno County supervisors Tuesday, plans for a new jail facility moved one step closer.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims says, "I feel very confident that we can be very competitive with other counties who are competing for these funds."
Up for grabs is $80 million in state funding. The county would pay a ten percent match. Sheriff Mims says the new jail is a must, given the conditions inside the old south annex facility, which would eventually be replaced.
"This really provides a facility for the future," says Sheriff Mims.
Albert Ramirez with the Fresno County Bail Association supports the proposal overall, but he does fear the county might still face the same struggles. Just this month, more than a thousand criminals were released early from the Fresno County Jail because of overcrowding. The new jail would have 300 beds, instead of the 499 beds currently operating in the south annex.
Ramirez says, "We also don't want to see the loss of the 200 beds and wondering why that 4 million dollars can't be used to keep those beds online."
Sheriff Mims says she has a plan to limit the number of repeat offenders. It would be through treatment and rehabilitation programs for people with mental illness and substance abuse problems. The proposal would even use technology to offer psychiatric services over the phone and through video.
Roger Engelman, a former inmate who once battled a drug problem, says that's a must.
Engelman says, "You go to the problem. The crimes are just something that happens because of the problem. The problem are drugs and alcohol.
Thursday is the deadline to submit the application. Sheriff Mims says the state will either award or deny the grant by January.