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Indio Jail may be casualty of coronavirus economic impact

In an exclusive Skype interview with News Channel 3 I-Team Investigator John White spoke with Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco about the economic impact the coronavirus is having on public safety funding.

The economic downturn could result in stopping the new Indio Jail from opening.

"If they cut anything from my department, unfortunately, the Indio Jail, the expansion of the Indio Jail would be the first thing eliminated from my budget and it won't open." warns Sheriff Bianco. The main issue he says is the lack of staff.

Whether the new jail opens or not, the old jail is scheduled to be demolished June 9th or 10th. That means that 350 inmates would need a place to go and could leave the Coachella valley without a jail.

Bianco explains that "we would have to absorb those into the rest of the jail system. So, we may go from expecting a 16-hundred bed facility to zero, pretty much.""

The Sheriff says that County budget cuts as a result of the coronavirus could have a big impact on public safety. 'The numbers have gone from anywhere from a 16 million dollar hit to 80 million. So we're trying to come-up with many scenarios to make that work."

In addition to the economic impact the virus has also taken the lives of two Deputies and two inmates. Coronavirus spreading quickly through the jails with 190 confirmed cases.

Bianco adding that the health situation has improved. "We're down to into the teens of inmates and employees affected, so we're doing well now."

The Sheriff was the target of a Federal lawsuit in April. A Judge was critical of how the Sheriff planned to handle the spread of the virus. He says that dispute is being resolved.

"Quite honestly it was a big waste of everybody's time and money when we really should have, if she had concerns, just gone back into mediation in the first place."

Records show that there were 190 cases of coronavirus in Riverside County jails but that 134 are recovered.

The Sheriff now more concerned with the new zero bail policy in the State of California. The policy did reduce his jail population but at the same time released criminals back onto the streets.

"I think we're coming up on 50, the number we've re-arrested after they've been let go. And I think we're over 10 that have been arrested multiple times."

The Sheriff has been outspoken that his Department will not enforce public health orders saying that "it's apparent to everybody this is no longer a medical issue, this is a political issue, so you have all that coming into play."

As of now the Sheriff says that the budget will dictate what he can and cannot do and admits that it's going to take some help to get through this economic turn.

"Unfortunately, I am going to have to be in favor of any help we can get, whether it comes from the state, whether it comes from the federal government. The repercussions that our economy is going to have and the recovery fro a 3 month shutdown is going to be felt for a long time."

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John White

John White anchors News Channel 3 Live at 5:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m.on KESQ-TV and CBS Local 2. Learn more about John here.

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Timothy Kiley

Timothy Kiley is Assistant News Director for News Channel 3 starting in 2002 as Photojournalist.


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