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Losing Sleep: California Jails Releasing Prisoners on Own Recognizance

Friday, October 14, 2011

How well do you sleep at night?  How safe do you feel?  Well get ready to lose some sleep. Read the following article and watch the video on why local jails are having to release inmates into the public to make room for state prisoners.

Getting out of Jail Free  

California Bail Agent Albert Ramirez does a good job explaining the role that bail agents play in ensuring defendants show up in court and the positive impact that has on public safety.  When defendants are released pretrial without any financial accountability or incentive to stay out of trouble, more crimes are committed and our local communities become less safe.  See the article below.

Officials Say Fresno County Jail Nearly Full Again
by Gene Haagenson 

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno County jail is filling up fast. State funds allowed the jail to make room for four hundred new inmates, but those beds are just about full. 

Officials say they could have to begin releasing inmates early again to relieve crowding again soon. 

The county has received money from the state to ease overcrowding in the state prison system. 

The goal is to have some criminals who would be sent to prison diverted to county facilities. 

Since it will take months for those prisoners to get through the courts, the county figured it had some time to house its routine prisoners, but that time was short. 

Despite opening a closed floor of the jail, in less than two weeks the Fresno County jail is back near capacity. 

"We will probably get overcrowded in three or four days. That means the jail will be releasing those arrested for non violent crimes like car theft early, often that means right after being booked," Rick Hill of the Fresno County Sheriff's Department said. 
Authorities say inmates released early on their own recognizance, without posting bond, have been linked to numerous repeat crimes. 

The two suspects arrested following a high speed chase in northeast Fresno last month were suspected of committing dozens of burglaries after being released due to overcrowding. 

"If you don't actually arrest the defendants and make them bail out or keep them locked up, one or the other, they are not really held accountable they are emboldened," bail bondsman Albert Ramirez said. 

Bail bondsman Albert Ramirez admits he loses income when prisoners don't have to post bail, but says bail is a deterrent to crime. 

"The defendants are much more likely to go to court if they are released on bail versus released on or for overcrowding," Ramirez said. 

Fresno police and other law enforcement agencies have been dismayed by the early release policy, but once the ratio of inmates to jail staff reaches a certain level, the county has no choice but to abide by a federal court order to release inmates. 

"Some of us spend our whole career trying to put people in here, now it seems we are doing just the opposite, we're doing everything we can to put people out," Hill said. 

The jail is holding more local suspects for trial right now, but that will soon end. 
The state money to add more jail beds is the result of legislation designed to keep local criminals out of the overcrowded state prison system. 

(Copyright ©2011 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Original Article: Officials say Fresno County jail Nearly full again