DA, Sheriff address hundreds of Fresno County inmates released during $0 bail, COVID-19 pandemic

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FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Three shootings, hours after local, state, and federal agencies came together to announce that “enough is enough” and the recent crimewave needs to stop.

During Wednesday’s announcement, Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp had a clear message at the conference for California Governor Gavin Newsom, “open up the prisons.”

“Stop using COVID-19 to promote your political agenda,” said Smittcamp. “The blood of the children being shot by out of control gang members in our city is on your hands and the hands of every person who does not make public safety a priority.”

Smittcamp claimed that local criminals have been taking advantage of the current climate and policies.

“There is a mentality out there because of $0 bail because of the overcrowding issues that there is a free for all and like I said earlier, criminals watch the news and know exactly what is going on the street,” she said.

In April, the state enacted $0 bail in place to lower the jail populations, which are at risk for COVID-19 outbreaks. Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said from the start to when it ended on June 20, over 1500 inmates were sent home.

“Many inmates that were in custody for certain offenses,” said Mims. “In fact, for most offenses, were released from Fresno County Jail.”

The Fresno County Superior Court created its own $0 bail, but certain gun charges and repeat offenders no longer qualify. However, inmates continue to be released because of pods taken up by positive COVID cases.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, before the pandemic around 3000 beds were filled. Currently, there are only around 2300 filed.

Mims said the seven positive inmates are in a pod with 32 beds. She insists there is no wiggle room to open additional beds available.

“There is no one in Fresno County that wants to hold as many inmates as we legally can than me,” said Mims. “I want to make sure that we hold people accountable but I don’t want to allow people to come into jail or into a pod inappropriately where they might get sick. I can be held personally responsible.”

Another issue is inmates do not have to test, wear marks, or social distance if they don’t want to. The rules are voluntarily not mandatory and with COVID-19 cases across the country rising, Mims does not want to open too many beds and then have to close them down again due to an outbreak.

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