A new report shows the Fresno County Jail is in need of dire change, and if action isn't taken soon the problems may only get worse.
At Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, Sheriff Margaret Mims pushed for more jail space, but that push was met with some reluctance.
There's no question that big changes need to made within the jail, but the big question is--can the county afford it?
Daniel C. Smith & Associates says, "I wish I had better news but the news is the reality."
The reality is the Fresno County Jail is not up to par. Bad news that comes as no surprise to Fresno County officials. A new report suggests a change needs to be made soon.
Sheriff Margaret Mims says, "It's not an easy task and it's not going to get any easier so we need to take a look at how to better protect Fresno County in the future.
For years the jail has been plagued by overcrowding. Not enough beds, forces criminals back on the streets prematurely. The strain has worsened since AB-109 was passed. This week alone the numbers are staggering. 830 inmates who would normally be in state prison, are now sitting in the county jail.
There are 3,291 usable beds in the Fresno County Jail right now. In 25 years the county will need close to 5,796. Sheriff Mims asked for the go ahead to expand. She wants to tap into $80 million in state funding.
"That will go along way in making a dent to what's it's going to cost just to build," says Mims.
But then there's the cost to operate a new, bigger space. County supervisors are a little skeptical.
Board Chairman Henry Perea says, "There are two big nuts to crack and the first one is the money to build the jail and the money to staff it on an ongoing basis. That's very expensive."
"We can either pay in the form of increased crime in the community or hold people accountable when they commit those crimes," says Mims.
Sheriff Mim's says the typical cost of building a jail is about $60,000 per bed.
Supervisors did ask Mims to do a little more research about what this would cost the county. Once they know more, they'll decide whether to tap into state funding.
Overcrowding issues also led to a lawsuit. Four county inmates are suing Fresno County, over accusations the jail is dangerous and fails to provide basic health care.