Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims began her third term in office last week. Since she became sheriff in 2006, law enforcement and criminal justice have seen massive changes: big budget cuts, mandatory jail releases, realignment and sentencing reform.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted today to submit a grant application to the state to fund a new $80 million jail annex. The proposed new West Annex Jail in downtown Fresno would house 300 inmates and would also include treatment facilities.

As part of the application the county agreed to set aside $8.8 million to help fund the project. If built, the county would be required to operate the facility for at least 10 years. The county hopes the new facility will replace the agin south jail annex in courthouse park.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A survey by the state Sherriff’s Association shows over 1500 inmates in California are serving 5 years or more at local jails that are equipped for shorter stays. As KPCC’s state capitol reporter Julie Small reports, the survey looked at the effects of California’s realignment law.

A year and a half ago, California began sending thousands of low-level felons to county jails instead of prison. San Bernardino County absorbed 4,200 new felons according to Sheriff’s Spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. “We have now so many more inmates that are staying here,” says Bachman.

Fresno County

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.

Casey Christie / The Californian / Reporting on Health Collaborative

It’s been one year since Governor Jerry Brown shifted responsibility for low-level offenders in California from the state to counties.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, experts say it’s too soon to truly assess the impact of the governor’s “realignment” program.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to accept a $100 million state grant that would help fund construction of a new jail at the existing Lerdo pre-trial facility. As a condition of the grant, the county also committed over $22 million in matching funds to support construction of the facility, which will house around 800 mostly medium security inmates.

The county had previously been awarded a similar grant in 2008, but had to reject the funding because it was unable to allocate the matching funds required the state. 

"Trust Act" Heads to California Governor's Desk

Aug 25, 2012

California lawmakers have approved a bill designed to stop undocumented immigrants from being deported unless they’ve been convicted or charged with a serious or violent felony. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the bill passed Friday after heated debate on the Assembly floor.

California Sentencing Institute / Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice

A new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice shows that Valley Counties on average send more people to jail and state prison than the rest of the state. Kings County topped the list with the state's highest per capita population in state prison, over 1,500 adults for every 100,000 people. Tulare and Kern counties weren't far behind.

Since 2010, the second and third floors the Fresno County Jail in Downtown Fresno have been empty. Budget cuts resulted in the layoffs of around 70 officers who worked in the jail, forcing Sheriff Margaret Mims to close the floors, and begin the early release of prisoners.

"Right now our capacity is at about 2,300 inmates and we run at 100 percent capacity almost all of the time," said Mims.

Segment 1 – County Jails & State Prisons - Last month the US Supreme Court ruled that California must reduce its prison population by 33,000 inmates by 2013, to improve inmate health care. And a new state law plans to shift much of that burden to county jails. We talk about the future of the state's corrections system and what it means for the Valley, with Kern County Sheriff Joel Youngblood, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims and prisoner rights advocate Rebecca Evenson of the Prison Law Office.