Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Sheriff pushes for new bail rates to ease jail crowding

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims heads to Sacramento next week as part of her ongoing effort to halt early releases of dangerous jail inmates.

Mims is scheduled to testify before the state’s oversight agency, the Little Hoover Commission, on the issue of bail.

Her position is that bail amounts are sometimes set in a way that makes it pricier, thus harder, for low-level inmates to get out of jail while awaiting trial; this can mean tying up jail space needed for more egregious offenders.

Mims wants to find out how often this is the case and what can be done to change things.

The lack of space at the Fresno County Jail has meant releasing dozens of inmates early each day, and many go on to commit new crimes. Mims, obviously, wants the least dangerous folks to be freed.

Also, she says, if there is a way for more inmates to be freed on bail rather than let out without bail when space is short, more accused offenders would show up for their court date — they’d want to collect on their deposit.

“I want to see if my belief is accurate: that lower bail would hold people accountable and create bed space for more serious offenders,” she said.

Bail amounts are set county-by-county by the courts under state conditions.

Recently, there have been legislative calls for reforming the bail system. The Little Hoover Commission is taking up the issue at its Tuesday meeting.

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