Fed up with early releases, Fresno is getting creative to keep its career criminals behind bars.
Budget cuts have made the past few years tough on the Fresno Sheriff's and Police Department, but one new bill will keep criminals where they belong.
Many of Fresno’s thefts and murders are happening at the hands of career criminals. Those like Tino Tufono, who due to jail overcrowding, keep getting released. “He [Tino] had been arrested 12 times in the year prior and was released a week prior to committing this murder,” says Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.
Fresno is saying enough is enough.
Last year, the city set aside $150,000 to transport the criminals to other jails when the Fresno County jail became overcrowded. “The law has prevented us from doing it,” says Dyer. Assemblymember Henry T. Perea says it’s because “judges have the ability to send offenders to neighboring jails if there is no jail in the county or when a county jail becomes unfit or unsafe” but not due to overcrowding.
The road block prompted Perea's new bill AB 1393 “Keeping Repeat Offenders Behind Bars”. “It would allow California superior court judges to send repeat offenders to jails in neighboring counties,” says Perea.
If it passes, Dyer says “Yes, we have a workable solution as soon as we get the law modified.”
Madera has already agreed to take Fresno inmate but the two counties still will need to draw up a contract. Fresno would pay for the transportation and daily costs of its inmates housed in Madera. The city will buy 5 beds. “Depending on those that bail out, we would have several people fill those beds in a week period of time,” says Fresno Police Dept. Captain Mike Reid.
Bail is important. If a criminal is let out through early release they don't post bail. They receive a citation to show up to court but with no money looming over their head 75% never go before a judge. “We cannot allow jurisdictional boundaries from allowing us to keep our citizens safe,” says Dyer referring to current laws holding the city back.
Mayor Swearingin says she’s in support. “This will make the difference in our ability to reduce auto theft, property crime and also prevent future violent acts that have plagued our community for the last several years.”
It will help keep the Whittakers and the Tufonos off the streets.
If the bill is adopted if would go into effect in early 2013 but Assemblymember Perea says it could happen sooner. If the bill is deemed urgent it could go into effect immediately with the support of a two-thirds vote.
Sheriff Mims was noticeably absent from Friday’s press conference. She says she doesn't support the language of the bill. If AB 1393 were to go into effect, it would strip control of the jail from the county. The Sheriff's Association says that is "counter to the core principle of realignment."
Christina Lusby Reporting.