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Nearly 10% of state ordered pandemic releases back in jail
behind bars

Almost 10 percent of the “zero bail” releases through the San Joaquin County Jail ended up back behind bars.

According to San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow, of the 353 people that have been released through the state’s new “zero bail” program during the COVID-19 pandemic – people that were either booked in and released or were already in custody and met the criteria to be released. Of those people, 31 have been returned to the jail on additional charges.

Withrow was proactive in taking steps to make sure that the virus did not come into the secured facility and took a stand against releases early-on while other counties were proactively letting people on less serious charges go with a promise to appear in court – arguing at the time that the sheer number of those low-level criminals that return to the facility would be more dangerous to staff and inmates.

“We still do not have the COVID virus in our jail, knock on wood, and there was no reason for us to have to release anybody,” Withrow said in his monthly address to the community this week. “But we did, and now we’re out there fighting hard on the streets to make sure that you stay safe because we have some extra people out there.”

In order to maintain an established presence in the community, Withrow implemented an extended 12.5-hour schedule for patrol officers that went into effect in less than a week – allowing for patrol deputies to rotate on and off and give longer increments of time in between so that they could quarantine and protect themselves and their families.

The program, he said, worked because of the willingness of staff to make those changes even though they affected their families and meant that they would be away from home more often during the uncertain times.

And with a recent decision by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, Withrow is optimistic that the staffing issues that he was facing earlier this year will be a thing of the past.

In order to help recruit qualified officers that were being scooped up by neighboring agencies that can offer more financially, San Joaquin County is now offering a $10,000 signing bonus for new hires in the Sheriff’s Office – new officers, lateral hires, correctional officers, and dispatchers are all eligible for the bonus if they come and work for San Joaquin County.

The money, he said, is paid incrementally over a period of time and will hopefully help recruit qualified personnel in order to provide the level of service that the people of the county expect and deserve.

Withrow also added that his officers are performing the “lowest level of enforcement possible” to gain compliance with health orders issued by the county and the State of California. While there have been publicized cases of people in other places being issued tickets for not complying, Withrow said his deputies haven’t issued a single ticket in the more than 400 calls that they’ve responded to for people defying the public health orders – focusing instead on educating the public and promoting compliance without having to use heavy-handed tactics.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.