Fresno County Sheriff too busy arresting freed criminals to enforce lockdown orders

by WorldTribune Staff, May 15, 2020

The sheriff of Fresno County, California said she is not able to enforce Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus lockdown order because her department has its “hands full” re-arresting criminals freed under the “zero-dollar bail” policy enacted by the state last month.

Sheriff Margaret Mims

Sheriff Margaret Mims made the revelation in an interview on the Trevor Carey Show on Thursday.

Carey asked the sheriff: “I’ve heard multiple sheriffs around the nation state they will not enforce their governors’ shelter-in-place orders. Is that your position?”

Mims responded: “That is my position. We do not stop the public to find out what they’re doing when they’re not sheltering in place. We don’t ask those questions, we don’t ask if they’re ‘essential’. We’ve got our hands full trying to re-arrest people that are released due to zero-dollar bail. So we’ve got other things that are on our mind that are more important than stopping normally law-abiding citizens.”

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Tony Botti said Thursday that 711 suspects in Fresno County have been released on zero-dollar bail since the policy went into effect on April 6. There have been 87 re-bookings of previously released inmates.

California adopted zero-dollar bail after criminal justice reform advocates argued that cash bail was discriminatory.

Fresno is the fifth-largest city in California and the hub of the state’s agricultural Central Valley. As of Wednesday, the county had recorded 1,014 coronavirus cases and 13 deaths.

Last month, Mims said a “get out of jail free” card was being handed out by the state.

“This is going to set us back, this is going to mean more crimes,” she said.

Mims said the release of hundreds of prisoners from the county jail due to COVID-19 concerns allowed her department to have an entire floor of the jail empty and available, should the need to establish a quarantine zone arise. There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in the jail involving inmates. One correctional officer reportedly tested positive.

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