Fresno County is exploring the possibility of contracting with other counties to house inmates in their jails, as soon as January of next year.
The Board of Supervisors voted to move forward with the analysis of what such a plan would cost at its meeting on Tuesday.
It’s part of an effort to stem the early release of prisoners from the county jail. A pair of new state laws allow counties to place inmates in jail facilities in other counties when their own jails reach capacity.
Jail overcrowding has been a big problem for the county over the last few years, as budget cuts have resulted in reduced jail capacity. According to Supervisor Henry Perea, since September 2012, there have been over 20,000 early releases of prisoners from the jail due to overcrowding.
While the Fresno County Jail is currently at or near capacity, the facility still has extra space. There are currently 187 empty beds in the south jail annex, and 432 empty bends in the north jail annex.
However, those beds can't be used because the county doesn't have the funding to staff those floors with correctional officers. Reopening those beds to house prisoners could also be expensive due to their age and disrepair.
Even with additional funding for jail beds from AB 109, the state's prison realingment law, the county has still had to resort to early releases. On September 1, the county re-opened a previously vacant floor of the jail with 432 beds. But by September 25, those beds were already full, and there have since been 408 early releases from the jail due to overcrowding.
As part of study of housing inmates in other counties, Fresno County will also detail the costs associated with re-opening the remaining beds in the south jail annex. The Board of Supervisors expects to revisit the issue early next year.