Keeping Calif. criminals in jail is tough – and pricey. Here’s how much it costs.

Local communities battling California’s epidemic of catch-and-release crime fighting has forced them to cough up more to ensure capacity to keep criminals in jail.

How much does it cost the Fresno Police Department to house arrestees? 

That total comes in at $104 per person, according to a contract set to be approved by the Fresno City Council this week. 


The contract between the City of Fresno and Fresno County includes five beds in the Fresno County Jail at a total cost of $520 per day and $189,800 annually. 

If the county is unable to provide all five beds daily, the city will receive a refund that covers the daily cost of the unavailable beds, according to the contract. 

The Police Department will use revenue from its existing operating budget to pay for the beds, meaning the city will not be asked to dip into the General Fund Revenue. 

Fresno Police originally entered into this contract in 2013 to ensure certain detainees are not released from the Fresno County Jail due to overcrowding. 

“This agreement has served our community well as it guarantees five beds are reserved in [the Fresno County Jail] for our repeat offenders who commit crimes while they are out of custody,” Fresno Police said in a report to the Fresno City Council. “This results in a safer community for our residents.” 

The agreement will run from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2024, and it will be automatically extended for one more year under the same terms unless the city or county decides to opt out. If the contract is renewed, the agreement will automatically renew for another additional year, ultimately ending on June 30, 2026. 

Releases because of overcrowding have been an issue that spans decades. 

The 1994 Federal Consent Decree mandated that the county must release inmates from the jail whenever it reached 100 percent of its operating capacity.

Budget constraints in 2008 forced the county to close 53 percent of the jail’s total capacity – 1,855 beds. Three floors of the jail reopened in 2013, but many beds are still unavailable, including 300 beds from the vacated Satellite Jail. 

In 2011, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 109 – known as the Public Safety Realignment Act – which resulted in the transfer of 55,000 inmates from state prisons to county facilities. 

Fresno Police see this contract extension as a way to prevent criminals from continuing to commit crimes because they were released due to overcrowding. 

“These five beds guaranteed by the County would allow the City of Fresno to keep criminals that, in past years, have been rearrested multiple times, behind bars until they either make bail arrangements or are adjudicated in the criminal justice system,” Fresno Police said.

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