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Navigating the Fresno County Jail and Detention Center

The Fresno County jail is a detention center in downtown Fresno. It has three complexes that are run by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, the main jail, the south annex, and the north annex. Underground tunnels connect the jail facility to Fresno County Courthouse, providing the safe and easy transport of inmates to and from court dates. The jail currently houses about 2,800 inmates, most of which are male. 

While the Fresno County jail makes attempts to rehabilitate offenders with various programs and services, and to decrease recidivism, it holds the unfortunate record of the most deaths of any county jail in the state of California. The most common offenses of the inmates in the Fresno County jail are theft, burglary, auto theft, assaults, and robberies, in that order. While there are no statistics available about the number of crimes committed due to drug or alcohol abuse, it is widely accepted that the county’s substance abuse problems are at the heart of many of the offenses. 

Fresno County Jail Inmate Programs 

There are a number of options provided by the Jail Program and Services Bureau to help improve the well-being of inmates. Of course, these programs depend upon the participation of offenders and how seriously they take them. Additionally, being eligible to take part in them may be limited to inmates with certain security classifications. However, academic education is made available to all inmates. 

The Fresno County Office of Education operates the Delma Graves Adult School, which offers inmates literacy education, GED preparation, English as a second language (ESL), and life skills classes. The life skills classes include courses pertaining to employment, financial management, relationship building, parenting, and interpersonal skills. There are also programs available including Chaplaincy services and religious programs, health and wellness programs, Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step meetings, and services that include library services, access to legal research, community resources, and drug and alcohol education. 

Does Fresno Jail’s Jail to Community Program Work? 

One of the most important programs that inmates can participate in is the Transition from Jail to Community (TJC) program. The program was launched in 2013 via a grant from the Urban Institute and is maintained with funding from the Community Corrections Partnership. Within the program, sentenced inmates take part in community reintegration programs to help with transitioning back into the community. Inmates who participate are those with a medium to high risk of reoffending, most of the participants have substance abuse and addiction issues that caused their repeat offending. 

To be a part of the TJC program, inmates must be four to six months away from completing their sentence, and they go through an intensive interview process to get in. Once in, inmates serve their remaining time in the TJC pod with others who are also in the program. Each day in the program, the offenders must attend various classes that cover cognitive behavioral techniques, substance abuse, parenting, anger management, and GED courses. They also have access to working on art projects. The goal is that they do not just sleep all day as many inmates do. 

The TJC program is designed to give inmates a chance to change and remake their lives in the future, and it’s been fairly successful. Out of the first 54 graduates of the program only eight have reoffended. Considering the high-risk nature of the participants, that’s an encouraging statistic. 

How Can You Help a Family Member in Fresno County Jail? 

If you have a family member who is incarcerated, there are some things that you can do to help them as they serve their sentence. 

  • Keep in touch – One of the most helpful things you can do for your loved one who is incarcerated is keep in touch. That means answering the phone when they call, writing letters so they get mail, and visiting when it’s allowed. 
  • Send money – Putting money on your loved one’s commissary account will help with small comforts that make life easier while incarcerated. 
  • Reach out to jail for help – If you have concerns, don’t be afraid to reach out to jail officials. This is especially important for inmates who have mental health issues and cannot always speak for themselves. When calling, make sure that you have done the proper research, so you know you are contacting the right person for your concern. There are advocacy groups that will help you if you have difficulty reaching the right people. 

Final Thoughts 

The Fresno County jail and detention center isn’t a place that you want your loved one to end up. However, there are some programs and services available to help if you are ever in that position. When inmates focus on their behavior and have a willingness to change, they can successfully take part in the education and services that the jail offers and transition back to life outside.