Incarceration Trends in California

Incarceration Trends in California- San Francisco Criminal Defense Lawyer

Incarceration Trends in California

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, as of 2018, 239,000 Californians are incarcerated in various kinds of facilities across the state. These include 131,000 in state prisons, 82,000 in local jails, 16,000 in federal prisons, 6700 in youth facilities, and 3600 on involuntary commitment. Each year, more than 368,000 people are booked into local jails in California and cycle through the system.

California’s Incarceration Rates Compared to Other Countries

California’s incarceration rates are striking when compared to international incarceration rates. The United States has a total incarceration rate of 698 people per 100,000. California is close behind the national rate at 581 per 100,000, much higher than the incarceration rates in the United Kingdom, Portugal, Canada, France and many other countries.

California’s Incarceration Rates Compared to Other States

The Vera Institute of Justice notes that California has the second highest rate of incarceration in prisons of any state in the country. Oregon is the only state with a higher incarceration rate, of 569 per 100,000 people. California’s prison incarceration rate, as of 2018, is 489 per 100,000 people. This rate has dropped by 29 percent since 2008.

California’s Incarceration Rates by Race and Ethnicity

When examining the race and ethnicity of those incarcerated in California’s prisons, disparity is evident. As of 2017, per the Vera Institute of Justice, 44 percent of the state’s prison population is Latinx; 28 percent is Black; 21 percent are White; one percent is Native American, and one percent is Asian. Since 1978, the Black incarceration rate in California’s prisons has increased by 260 percent.

Interestingly, those Californians who were born in another country are less likely to be imprisoned than those who were born in the United States. A total of 81.4 percent of California’s adult prison population are US-natives, and just 13.5 percent of the state’s prison population was born in a foreign country. Among California’s prison inmates who are foreign-born, 8.6 percent were born in Mexico and 3.7 percent were born in other countries.

California Incarceration Rates by Gender

California’s prison population is predominantly male. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, however, the number of women in California’s state prisons has increased more than six times from 1978, when it was just 847. By 2017, that number had risen to 5793. This is in keeping with increasing national trends in women’s incarceration, as women’s prison admissions nationwide have increased 14 times, from 1970’s fewer than 8000 to about 110,000 in 2013.

Crimes of Convicts in California Prisons

As of 2017, per the California Department of Corrections, half of the prisons admitted to the state prison system had been convicted of an assault, robbery or weapons charge. The top crimes of convicts in California’s prisons are as follows:
Assault: 29 percent
Weapons: 12 percent
Robbery: 10 percent
Burglary: 9 percent
Drug crimes: 8 percent
Sex crimes: 7 percent
Homicide: 3 percent
DUI: 3 percent
Other property crimes: 10 percent
Other crimes: 9 percent

Overcrowding at California State Prisons

The Public Policy Institute of California notes that since 2017, the prison population in California has hovered just below the Supreme Court’s mandated target of 137.5 percent. Thirteen of 35 state-owned prison facilities operate beyond that capacity, however. Additionally, about 15,000 prison inmates are not counted in the institutional prison population because they have been housed in camps or in one of eight contract facilities not owned by the state of California.

California’s Death Row Inmate Population

As of August 2021, per the California Department of Corrections, a total of 699 inmates have been condemned to death. State law has historically mandated that male prisoners condemned to death be housed at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, and women prisoners condemned to death be housed at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. On March 13, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order instituting a moratorium on the death penalty in California, in the form of a reprieve for all prisoners sentenced to death.