As The Bee asserted in its Oct. 24 editorial, "Fresno County makes right move with bid for jail funds," the old county jail indeed is dangerous for both inmates and employees and needs to be torn down, the county needs to reduce the number of pre-trial inmates in custody and the public defender's office needs more resources to ensure constitutional protections and the efficient administration of justice.
But despite the Board of Supervisors' identifying these issues as priorities, too little has been done. The pre-trial release program initiated last year by the probation department needs to be expanded to have any impact on the almost 2,000 inmates awaiting trial, many of whom are forced to languish behind bars because they cannot afford bail.
The county should aggressively pursue Affordable Care Act funds that could be used to divert those suffering from mental illness and drug addictions out of the criminal justice system and into treatment, and invest in job training and housing assistance programs proven to help people become more productive members of the community.
Locking up innocent or low-level nonviolent offenders does not make us safer, and the cost is one that the taxpayers can no longer afford.
Lead Central Valley Regional Organizer
ACLU of Northern California