ICYMI: Nearly 40 Fresno County low-level juvenile offenders set free to slow coronavirus spread
By Yesenia Amaro


From The Fresno Bee

Thirty-eight nonviolent juvenile offenders have been released this month from the Fresno County Juvenile Justice Campus to lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus, a probation official confirmed.

Chief Probation Officer Kirk Haynes said the releases followed court orders based on recommendations from the California Judicial Council.

“The whole point of this is to make sure that we can do the proper social distancing within the institution and to make sure, you know, (that) we try to limit the number of kids who are brought into the institution,” he said.

As COVID-19 cases grow, jails and prisons around the nation have released some inmates to lower infection risks. This week, more than 400 inmates were released from the Fresno County jail.

Haynes said 19 detainees were in custody awaiting court appearances and hadn’t been convicted of any crimes and another 19 were nearing the end of their sentences. Those released were facing allegations ranging from felony auto theft to misdemeanor drug possession and probation violations.

Probation officers will supervise some of those released.

Haynes couldn’t say whether any young people were sent to group homes or foster care.

As of Wednesday, there were 117 young people in custody.

Haynes said staffers are taking safety precautions, including medically screening detainees and staff and precautionary 14-day quarantines for all new detainees. There also are plans in place if a detainee shows symptoms or tests positive.

His department has about 650 staffers, of which 200-220 of them work at juvenile hall.

“It’s a full-time undertaking just to make sure we are doing all those kinds of things, and then making sure that once kids are here, we keep them healthy and safe,” Haynes said of the need to protect youth who can’t be released.

“Those are some of the challenges that we are dealing with right now.”

Juvenile and adult probation have also seen changes, Haynes said. Probation officers are making more checks over the phone.

For high-risk people on probation, officers are still checking in person while following the social distancing guidelines.

“Of course, if we still have to make arrests, we are still doing those kinds of things, just to … make sure that the public is safe, but we did have to make some adjustments to how we normally do business,” Haynes said.