Fresno County Supervisors Show Support for Funding New Jail Annex

Fresno County Supervisors Show Support for Funding New Jail Annex

In a little more than a week, Fresno County may start the process of building a new jail annex.  Tuesday, supervisors cleared a final push to secure state funds to build the facility.  It would be built in the parking lot behind the current jail's north annex.

200 fewer jail beds will be available in Fresno County as a result of the proposed jail, but those in favor of the plans hope new programs will cut down inmate population altogether.

It was a unanimous vote Tuesday.  All five Fresno County Supervisors hopped on board to secure state funding to build a brand new jail facility.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims says, "Victims of crime have to come first and we have to make sure that we have people incarcerated that need to be on jail."

The state already recommended Fresno County receive the full $79 million up for grabs.  The money would be used to build a 300 bed facility, with a bigger focus on mental health and drug treatment programs.

Fresno resident Paige McCue says, "I think that's a really good idea because most of the inmates are in there for drug issues."

An issue that McCue has dealt with personally.  Every week, she writes notes in the dirt in the empty parking lot across the street from the jail.  Her boyfriend has been on jail for three years for stealing cars.  McCue says it was his drug problem that led to a life of crime.

"If they take care of that on the inside, they wouldn't have to do it on the outside where it's more possible to use again."

Fresno ACLU organizer Pam Whalen says that's not the only problem that needs to be addressed.  She says before building a new jail, the county should focus on cutting down the pretrial inmate population.

Whalen says, "70% of the people there have not been convicted of anything and some may be low level offenders.  They simply are there because they cannot afford bail."

Supervisor Henry Perea says the county is pushing to hire two new judges, as well as attorneys, to speed up the court process.

Fresno County is expected to find out if it is awarded the state funding, next Thursday.  If it is, construction on the jail facility will likely take about 5 years to complete.
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