Mass Incarceration

The geography of mass incarceration in California |

by Emily Widra and Felicia Gomez of the Jail Coverage Initiative

One of the vital vital felony authorized system disparities in California has lengthy been tough to decipher: Which communities all through the state do incarcerated individuals come from? Anybody who lives in, works inside closely policed and incarcerated communities, or who has an incarcerated beloved one intuitively is aware of that sure neighborhoods disproportionately expertise incarceration. However knowledge have by no means been obtainable to quantify how many individuals from every neighborhood are imprisoned with any actual precision.

However now, because of redistricting reform that ensures incarcerated persons are counted appropriately within the legislative districts they arrive from, we are able to perceive the geography of incarceration in California. California is one of over a dozen states which have ended prison gerrymandering, and now rely incarcerated individuals the place they legally reside — at their house deal with — relatively than in distant jail cells. This kind of reform, as we frequently talk about, is essential for ending the siphoning of political energy from disproportionately Black and Latino communities, to pad out the largely rural and sometimes predominantly white areas the place prisons are situated. And when reforms like California’s are carried out, they carry alongside a handy facet impact: To be able to appropriately characterize every neighborhood’s inhabitants counts, states should gather detailed state-wide knowledge on the place imprisoned individuals name house, which is in any other case unattainable to entry.

Utilizing this redistricting knowledge, we discovered that in California, incarcerated individuals come from all around the state, however the largest variety of imprisoned persons are from the state’s massive cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, and Fresno. Surprisingly, a handful of much less populous and extra rural counties — like Kings, Shasta, Tehama, and Yuba counties — and even some smaller cities — together with Avenal, Crimson Bluff, Corcoran, and Sonora — have excessive imprisonment charges as effectively, suggesting that folks throughout California are affected by the state’s reliance on mass incarceration.

Along with serving to coverage makers and advocates successfully convey reentry and diversion assets to those communities, this knowledge has far-reaching implications. Across the nation, excessive imprisonment charges are correlated with different neighborhood points associated to poverty, employment, training, and well being. These cumulative impacts of incarceration are significantly stark for Black girls, contributing to their astronomically higher rates of maternity complications and rates of Black infant mortality.

Researchers, students, advocates, and politicians can use the info on this report back to advocate for bringing extra assets to their communities.

map of California showing incarceration rate by county with top imprisonment counties labeled
Incarcerated individuals come from throughout California — however disproportionately from some locations greater than others
Greater than 122,000 California residents are locked up in state prisons, leaving the state with an imprisonment charge of 310 per 100,000 California residents. Whereas no area of California is proof against the results of the state’s reliance on mass incarceration, some communities are disproportionately impacted by imprisonment.

County Developments

Each single county within the state — and each congressional and state legislative district — is lacking a portion of its inhabitants to incarceration in state jail. Counties that comprise city or extra densely populated areas — like Los Angeles County (which is house to greater than 10 million Californians) and the close by counties of Riverside, San Bernandino, and Orange — are inclined to ship the most individuals to jail. Nonetheless, as this residence knowledge exhibits, the concept that incarceration is an issue uniquely skilled in massive cities is a fable: a handful of much less populous California counties have disproportionately excessive imprisonment charges.

In central California, Kings County and Tulare County stand out as two of California’s least populous counties with excessive charges of imprisonment. Kings County, which is house to lower than 200,000 individuals, has the best imprisonment charge within the state at 666 individuals in state jail per 100,000. The county on to the east, Tulare County with a inhabitants below 475,000 individuals, has an imprisonment charge of 474 per 100,000.

In northern California, a handful of smaller counties — together with Shasta, Tehama, Yuba, Siskiyou, Lake, and Del Norte counties — all have imprisonment charges greater than 1.5 instances larger than the state as an entire, that means that these northern counties are sending massive parts of their comparatively small populations to state jail.

Within the extra populous counties, hundreds of persons are incarcerated, however as a result of the county populations are so massive, the proportion of individuals incarcerated is barely decrease than many much less populated counties. Los Angeles County has an imprisonment charge of 402 per 100,000, which implies that on the time of the 2020 Census, greater than 40,000 individuals in California state prisons referred to as Los Angeles County house. Riverside County has 9,340 individuals in jail at an imprisonment charge of 386 per 100,000 residents, and San Diego County has 8,799 individuals in jail at a charge of 267 per 100,000 residents.

Native Land and imprisonment of Indigenous individuals throughout California

Nationally, we all know that Native American persons are overrepresented in state jail methods. In California, the imprisonment charge of Native individuals in 2020 was 177 per 100,000, whereas the imprisonment charge of white individuals was 116 per 100,000. These numbers solely inform part of the story, although.

By diving deeper into this dataset we get a extra full image of the devastating affect of mass incarceration on reservation communities. Some areas of federally acknowledged tribal land — together with the Fort Mojave Reservation and Massive Valley Rancheria — have imprisonment charges greater than 5 instances the imprisonment charge of Los Angeles. The disparities in these communities are much more stark once you evaluate the state as an entire. For instance, residents of the Rohnerville Rancheria are imprisoned at a charge that’s ten-times larger than the state common.

Even once you study all reservation and belief land in California as a collective complete, the imprisonment charge remains to be 534 per 100,000, which remains to be larger than the imprisonment charge of most California cities and considerably larger than the state common.

Racial and ethnic disparities permeate all ranges of the felony authorized system which is made attainable by carceral services working on the unceded territory of the Indigenous and native peoples of this land. Moreover, we are able to see proof that disparities in policing contribute to the upper charges of imprisonment of Native People. Indigenous individuals, too, expertise larger charges of imprisonment, and we are able to see proof that disparities in policing contribute to the upper charges of imprisonment of Native individuals. For instance, within the predominantly rural county of Siskiyou, the small metropolis of Yreka (whole inhabitants of lower than 8,000 individuals) has a inhabitants that’s 5.5% Native American, however Native People make up 11% of arrests by the Yreka Police Division.

Metropolis Developments

Whereas incarceration impacts each a part of the state, sure cities, each massive and small, are disproportionately affected by incarceration. Among the many 76 California cities with a minimum of 100,000 residents, Lancaster and Inglewood, each in Los Angeles County, have the best imprisonment charges at 691 per 100,000 and 585 per 100,000 individuals, respectively. Following carefully behind is California’s sixth most populous metropolis — the state’s capital, Sacramento — with an imprisonment charge of 558 per 100,000 individuals. And, Fresno, Riverside, and Salinas are additionally among the many cities with the best imprisonment charges (461, 457, and 420 individuals in jail per 100,000 metropolis residents, respectively).

Town of Compton, in Los Angeles County, with a inhabitants simply shy of 100,000, has an imprisonment charge of 980 per 100,000 residents. Amongst cities with greater than 20,000 residents, Compton’s imprisonment charge is the best, and is greater than three-times the state common. These acquainted with racial and ethnic disparities within the felony authorized system might not discover Compton’s excessive imprisonment charge stunning: It’s effectively documented that Black and Latino or Hispanic communities are overrepresented in the state prison population and Compton’s inhabitants is 28% Black and 69% Hispanic or Latino, in comparison with the statewide inhabitants that’s lower than 7% Black and 40% Hispanic or Latino. Additional, we all know that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Division (LASD) disproportionately arrests Black residents: Black individuals account for 18% of the LASD’s arrests, however the county inhabitants is simply 7% Black. Furthermore, Black LGBTQ+ people are incarcerated at extremely high rates; in LA County Black persons are 30% of the jail inhabitants, and within the jail’s LGBT models, 40% of persons are Black. This means that policing, arrests, and incarceration are disproportionately concentrated in a handful of Black communities throughout the county, reminiscent of Compton with its massive Black inhabitants.

Compton’s demographics will not be the results of coincidence, however relatively design: Within the Nineteen Fifties, town was one of many starkest examples of “blockbusting” within the nation.Blockbusting was a state-sanctioned predatory actual property observe, during which brokers “deliberately stoked fears of racial integration and declining property values to push white owners to promote at a loss,” after which resold the properties to Black households at above-market charges. Black households in search of the “American dream” discovered themselves proudly owning declining-value properties in a metropolis that was experiencing fast divestment from trade and companies — and subsequently shedding job alternatives and tax revenue. Poorer communities of coloration, like Compton, have skilled a long time of systematic oppression and divestment by the private and non-private sectors, in addition to a historical past of heavy policing— leaving them significantly weak to a modern-day reliance on mass incarceration, significantly within the age of COVID-19, which has exacerbated anti-Black inequity. This has a very disproportionately harmful impact on Black who’ve incarcerated family members “who’re the unseen and uncompensated care staff on the frontline within the battle in opposition to the virus behind bars.”

Moreover, a few of California’s highest incarceration charges are present in smaller, poorer cities. For instance, Corcoran and Oroville, each with populations simply over 20,000 individuals, had imprisonment charges of 865 per 100,000 residents and 738 per 100,000 residents, respectively, that means each cities lock up individuals at a charge effectively above twice the state common. As we all know that nationwide, individuals in jail are inclined to have been among the poorest people within the nation before their incarceration, it’s unsurprising to search out that the cities of Corcoran and Oroville have higher rates of povertythan the state at massive, with 29% of Corcoran residents and 26% of Oroville residents residing beneath the poverty line, in comparison with 12% statewide. We additionally know that incarceration fuels the cycle of poverty, suggesting that these smaller California cities are additionally in want of targeted assets and assist to cut back the reliance on the felony authorized system that perpetuates poverty.

Neighborhood traits

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the state’s largest metropolis, with nearly 3 times as many residents as the following most populous metropolis of San Diego. Los Angeles additionally has a long history of racist policing and divesting from its communities of color. With this context, it’s not stunning that Black and Latino communities in Los Angeles expertise disproportionate policing and imprisonment, simply as they do elsewhere around the country. In Los Angeles, the 14 neighborhoods with the best imprisonment charges are all clustered in South Central Los Angeles — a predominately non-white region of the city— where 57% of residents are Latino38% are Black, and a pair of% are white. We don’t have policing or arrest knowledge by race for South Central L.A., however citywide policing data exhibits that whereas solely 8% of town’s inhabitants is Black, Black individuals make up 30% of Los Angeles metropolis arrests.

LA map
Imprisonment traits in Los Angeles are invariably tied to the racial disparities in policing and all through the criminal-legal system. In South Central L.A., the Green Meadowsneighborhood is 44% Black, whereas on the Westside of L.A., the Westwood neighborhood is 63% white and solely 2% Black. Policing throughout the complete metropolis of Los Angeles tends to disproportionately affect Black residents and communities.

Undoubtedly, socioeconomic standing and poverty additionally play into neighborhood variations in all ranges of involvement within the criminal-legal system. The South Central L.A. neighborhoods with the best incarceration charges have median incomes far below town common. It’s clear that high-incarceration South Central L.A. neighborhoods — together with Inexperienced Meadows, Watts, Manchester Sq., Broadway-Manchester, and Vermont Vista (which all have imprisonment charges over 930 per 100,000) — are concurrently going through a bunch of different challenges and systemic disadvantages that mix to make nearly each facet of life tough.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles neighborhoods with the bottom imprisonment charges are largely within the Westside area. These neighborhoods are predominately white, and far wealthier than their South Central L.A. counterparts. For instance, amongst neighborhoods with greater than 1,000 residents, the bottom imprisonment neighborhoods (starting from 131 per 100,000 to 154 per 100,000) — Cheviot Hills, Bel-Air, Playa Vista, Century Metropolis, West Los Angeles, and Westwood — are all amongst a number of the whitest communities within the metropolis, and all have higher median incomes than the remainder of town.

San Francisco

The citywide imprisonment charge of 118 per 100,000 individuals in San Francisco is about 3 times decrease than that of Los Angeles, however residence knowledge present that some San Francisco communities — significantly predominantly Black communities — are disproportionately affected by mass incarceration. The citywide population is 5% Black, however 38% of people arrested by the San Francisco Police Division are Black. In 2021, Black individuals had been stopped at a charge more than five and half times that of white individuals within the metropolis and had been ten instances as prone to be searched as white individuals.

San Francisco map
The Parkside neighborhood — traditionally white and thought of one of many “best” neighborhoods during redlining — has a comparatively low imprisonment charge. Throughout town, the neighborhood of Bayview imprisons residents at a charge of 335 per 100,000. Bayview was thought of one of the vital “hazardous” areas during redlining, and stays a predominately Black neighborhood.

Given the disproportionate policing of Black San Franciscans, it’s not stunning that predominantly Black communities in San Francisco have larger imprisonment charges than the remainder of town. For instance, the Bayview neighborhood, which has, for many years, been a center for Black culture, has an imprisonment charge of 335 per 100,000 residents, nearly 3 times larger than the citywide imprisonment charge.

Traditionally, San Francisco is among the starkest examples of redlining in the nation. Within the Thirties, the federal authorities rated the “riskiness” of actual property funding in several neighborhoods, leading to score non-white neighborhoods as “hazardous” and starting a cycle of disinvestment in these predominately Black and immigrant neighborhoods. A 2019 study of formerly redlined neighborhoods in over 100 cities discovered that these neighborhoods are lower-income and usually tend to be house to Black and Hispanic or Latino residents. The neighborhoods with the best incarceration charges in San Francisco 2020 are additionally the neighborhoods that were “redlined” in the mid-20th century. A long time of systematic oppression and divestment from poorer communities of coloration — which we all know are closely policed — have left these traditionally redlined communities significantly weak to California’s modern-day reliance on mass incarceration.

Whereas all communities are lacking a few of their family members to incarceration, in locations the place massive numbers of adults — mother and father, staff, voters — are locked up, incarceration has a broader neighborhood affect. The big variety of adults extracted from a comparatively small variety of geographical areas critically impacts the well being and stability of the households and communities left behind. It particularly impacts girls and gender non-conforming individuals, the place 1 in 4 women and 1 in 2 Black women have an incarcerated loved one. Usually, girls who’ve an incarcerated beloved one expertise profound well being implications. Nonetheless, racial disparities exist in girls’s well being as a result of Black women, specifically, experience mass incarceration disproportionately. Additional, the incarceration of a beloved one is financially destabilizing and ladies are those who take up the quick monetary prices of incarceration, reminiscent of lawyer’s charges, courtroom charges, and bail, all on the similar time that they could be shedding the monetary assist of their incarcerated beloved one. Through the interval of a beloved one’s incarceration, many ladies are compelled to deviate from private plans that may have led to long run stability so as to deal with the quick wants of their beloved one’s incarceration and the wants of different members of the family. Girls bear the prices of cellphone calls, jail visits, and commissary payments. Mostly, girls with incarcerated family members work extra hours, change jobs, miss out on job alternatives, and can’t pursue their very own training.

What are the variations between excessive incarceration communities and low incarceration communities?

In California and elsewhere throughout the nation, researchers have linked excessive native incarceration charges with a bunch of destructive outcomes for the individuals who reside there.

Within the Jail Coverage Initiative’s evaluation of where incarcerated people in Maryland are from in 2015, we discovered that Baltimore communities with excessive charges of incarceration had been extra prone to have excessive unemployment charges, lengthy common commute instances, low family revenue, a excessive proportion of residents with lower than a highschool diploma or GED, decreased life expectancy, excessive charges of vacant or deserted properties, and better charges of youngsters with elevated blood-lead ranges, in comparison with neighborhoods much less impacted by incarceration. Such outcomes are strictly correlational, suggesting that communities which can be closely affected by incarceration are concurrently going through a bunch of different challenges and systemic disadvantages that mix to make nearly each facet of life tough.

These geographic disparities will not be an accident, however are the results of long-standing racist insurance policies and choices about the place to take a position assets relatively than the results of criminality or different behavioral points inside communities of coloration. As earlier analysis has proven, practices and insurance policies throughout the nation associated to arrestsdrug enforcement (together with marijuana arrests in New York and California), searches (together with stop-and-frisk), pretrial detention, bail decisionsdrug stings, and asset forfeiture have contributed to those racial disparities at every level of the criminal legal system.

Analysis reveals the quite a few correlations between imprisonment and different penalties of underinvestment in neighborhood wellbeing:

  • Life expectancy: A 2021 evaluation of New York State census tracts discovered that tracts with the best incarceration charges had a median life expectancy more than two years shorter than tracts with the bottom incarceration charges, even when controlling for different inhabitants variations. And a 2019 analysis of counties throughout the nation revealed that larger ranges of incarceration are related to each larger morbidity (poor or truthful well being) and mortality (shortened life expectancy).
  • Neighborhood well being: A nationwide research, revealed in 2019, discovered that charges of incarceration had been related to a greater than 50% increase in drug-related deaths from county to county. And a 2018 research discovered that Black individuals residing in Atlanta neighborhoods with excessive incarceration charges usually tend to have poor cardiometabolic health profiles.
    An evaluation of North Carolina knowledge from 1995 to 2002 revealed that counties with elevated incarceration charges had larger charges of each teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A 2015 research of Atlanta additionally discovered that census tracts with larger charges of incarceration had higher rates of newly identified STIs. In a 2015 research, for instance, researchers discovered that San Francisco census tracts with excessive incarceration charges additionally confronted disproportionately heightened charges of sexual transmitted infections (STIs) amongst adolescent women and younger girls.
  • Psychological well being: A 2015 study discovered that folks residing in Detroit neighborhoods with excessive jail admission charges had been extra prone to be screened as having a present or lifetime main depressive dysfunction and generalized anxiousness dysfunction.
  • Publicity to environmental risks: A 2021 research discovered that individuals who grew up in U.S. census tracts with higher levels of traffic-related air pollution and housing-derived lead risk had been extra prone to be incarcerated as adults, even when controlling for different components.
    In New York Metropolis, neighborhood incarceration charge is associated with asthma prevalence amongst adults. Equally, in our 2020 evaluation of New York Metropolis neighborhoods, we discovered larger charges of asthma among children in communities with excessive incarceration charges.
  • Training: In a 2020 Jail Coverage Initiative evaluation of incarcerated New Yorkers’ neighborhoods of origin, we discovered a strong correlation between neighborhood imprisonment charges and standardized check scores. And a 2017 report on incarceration in Worcester, Massachusetts, discovered that colleges within the metropolis’s high-incarceration neighborhoods tended to be lower-performing. What’s extra, college students in these neighborhoods confronted extra disciplinary infractions.
  • Neighborhood assets and engagement: A 2018 research discovered that all through the nation, previously incarcerated individuals (in addition to all individuals who have been arrested or convicted of against the law) are extra seemingly than their non-justice-involved counterparts to reside in a census tract with low access to healthy food retailers. And the 2017 report on Worcester, Massachusetts, revealed that high-incarceration neighborhoods had lower voter turnout in municipal elections.

We have already got this wealth of knowledge displaying that incarceration charges correlate with a wide range of boundaries and destructive outcomes. The information on this report construct on this work by serving to determine which particular neighborhoods all through California are systematically deprived and left behind. California residents can use the info on this report to look at granular local-level and state-wide correlations and select to allocate wanted assets to locations hardest hit by incarceration.

Implications & makes use of of those knowledge

These 20 data tables offered right here have nice potential for neighborhood advocacy and future analysis.

First and most clearly, these knowledge can be utilized to find out the perfect areas for community-based programs that assist forestall involvement with the felony authorized system, reminiscent of Offices of Community Safety as described within the BREATHE Act and psychological well being response groups that work independently from police departments as modeled statewide by way of the passage of the CRISES Act (AB 2054, 2020) in California. The information may assist information reentry providers (that are usually offered by nonprofit neighborhood organizations) to areas of California that want them most.

However even past the plain want for reentry providers and different applications to forestall felony authorized system involvement, our findings additionally level to geographic areas that deserve better funding in applications and providers that not directly forestall felony authorized involvement and mitigate the hurt of incarceration. In spite of everything, a long time of analysis present that imprisonment results in cascading collateral consequences, each for people and their family members. When massive numbers of individuals disappear from a neighborhood, their absences are felt in numerous methods. They depart behind loved onesincluding children, who expertise trauma, emotional misery, and monetary pressure. Girls particularly report that the incarceration of their beloved one induced them to expertise stress, anxiousness, anger, melancholy, loneliness, migraines, insomnia, and fatigue. Concurrently, the massive numbers of individuals returning to those communities (because the overwhelming majority of incarcerated individuals do return house) face a bunch of reentry challenges and collateral consequences of incarceration, together with difficulty finding employment and a lack of housing. Folks impacted by the felony authorized system are inclined to have extraordinarily diminished wealth accumulation. And people getting back from jail and jail might carry again to their communities PTSD and other mental health issues from the trauma they’ve skilled and witnessed behind bars. Lastly, investing in core neighborhood assets to mitigate structural points like poverty, reminiscent of housing and healthcare, will cut back vulnerabilities for felony authorized system contact.

And since we all know homeland correlates with so many different metrics of wellbeing, we are able to and will goal these communities for assist and assets past what we usually consider as interventions to forestall felony authorized system contact. In communities the place the state or metropolis has closely invested in policing and incarceration (i.e., the high-incarceration neighborhoods we discover in our evaluation), our findings counsel that these assets can be better put toward reducing poverty and improving local health, education, and employment opportunities by passing and implementing insurance policies in alignment with the BREATHE Act. The BREATHE Act is the Motion for Black Lives’ visionary federal invoice proposal that gives a radical reimagining of public security, neighborhood care, and the way we spend cash as a society.

For instance, we all know that enormous numbers of youngsters in excessive incarceration areas could also be rising up with the trauma and misplaced assets that come together with having an incarcerated guardian, and that these kids are additionally more likely to experience incarceration. The knowledge on this report might help with planning and concentrating on helps, assets, and programming designed to not solely reply to the harms attributable to incarceration, however disrupt the cycle of familial incarceration. We additionally know that ladies with an incarcerated beloved one usually tend to reside in excessive incarceration areas. The knowledge on this report may assist with figuring out assets, programming, and investments designed to report back to the distinctive ways in which girls and gender non-conforming individuals expertise the harms of being straight impacted by incarceration to make sure all girls can thrive.

We invite neighborhood leaders, service suppliers, policymakers, and researchers to make use of this knowledge to make additional connections between mass incarceration and varied outcomes, to raised perceive the affect of incarceration on their communities.


Emily Widra, Jail Coverage Initiative

Writer Emily Widra is a Senior Analysis Analyst. She oversees Jail Coverage Initiative’s work analyzing the felony authorized system’s pandemic response, and was co-author of  Failing Grades: States’ responses to COVID-19 in Jails & Prisons. She can be the co-author of States of Incarceration: The International Context 2021and has revealed weblog posts on varied subjects, together with how states’ “good time” systems can reduce prison populations during the pandemicresources and datafor organizations targeted on policing, and why Black women are disproportionately affected by HIV. She is a 2017 graduate of the Smith Faculty Faculty of Social Work.

Felicia Gomez , Essie Justice Group

Writer Felicia Gomez is a Senior Coverage Affiliate for the Essie Justice Group, which organizes girls with incarcerated family members by way of their award-winning Healing to Advocacy Program, bringing girls collectively to heal, construct collective energy, and drive social change by way of native, statewide, and nationwide coverage and advocacy work. Beforehand, Felicia was a Coverage Analyst on the California Immigrant Coverage Middle the place she superior coverage on the intersection of the immigration and criminal-legal methods. Felicia holds a B.A. in Worldwide Relations and Spanish from the College of San Diego and an M.A. in Worldwide Training Growth from Columbia College.

The story above is a component of a bigger report by the authors, which is, in flip, a part of a series of reports analyzing the geography of mass incarceration. For extra data, together with 20 detailed knowledge tables, further maps, footnotes, authors’ methodology, and extra, see the full version of this report on the Jail Coverage Initiative.

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