Fresno

Fresno Co. revives zero-dollar bail following jail outbreak of coronavirus

Zero-dollar bail is back in action in Fresno County just days after the policy ended state-wide. 

After being put in effect on April 13, the California Judicial Council voted to end zero-dollar bail on June 20. However, the Judicial Council granted each county the option to extend zero-dollar bail. 

Fresno County extended the policy for 90 days after a coronavirus outbreak at the North Jail in the Fresno County Jail. There were 13 inmates who transferred from the jail to Wasco State Prison who tested positive for coronavirus, leaving about 1,200 people quarantined at the Fresno County jail. 

Proponents of zero-dollar bail argued that reducing jail populations would mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

Although county sheriff departments were forced to comply with the order, several sheriff’s voiced their displeasure with it. 

In May, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said that the department had its hands full re-arresting people who previously received zero-dollar bail. 

The policy is changing slightly this time around. Any suspects accused of car theft, child abuse, elder abuse or assault with a deadly weapon that could cause serious injury will not be granted zero-dollar bail. 

In precautionary measures, the North Jail is not allowing any inmates to leave their pod, and inmates in quarantine are not taken into court, according to a report from ABC 30. 

“Now we have a limited amount of spaces that those coming in off the streets can go to,” said Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Botti to ABC 30. “With the north jail being off-limits, we’re either going to take advantage of this zero-dollar bail and basically release them in the booking, or we’ll try to find a new spot if they are somebody dangerous.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.