Most people understand that the U.S. has a high rate of imprisonment when compared to other countries. This high degree of incarceration holds for the state of California as well.
The following information paints a clearer picture of prison rates from a geographical perspective.
Overall geographical disparities in imprisonment
According to a report from Witness LA, incarcerated individuals in California come from throughout the state, but they come disproportionately from rural areas. While urban areas such as San Diego and San Francisco imprison more people, rural areas often have higher rates of imprisonment. This includes areas in northern California and central areas of the state such as Kings County and Tulane County.
Often these rural counties have imprisonment rates that exceed 1.5 times higher than the state as a whole. For example, Kings County has the highest rate of imprisonment in the state at 666 people in state prison out of 100,000 residents. In comparison, San Diego County has an incarceration rate of 267 per 100,000 residents.
More focused disparities in imprisonment
When looking at imprisonment at the neighborhood level, the information shows that several urban communities have particularly high rates of incarceration. Jurisdictions in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno, Riverside and Salinas have imprisonment rates much higher than the state average. The city of Compton in Los Angeles County has an imprisonment rate more than three times the state average.
When delving into the data, researchers identify several disparities in imprisonment in California, many that break along racial, ethnic and socioeconomic lines. These factors have large consequences for communities throughout the state and for the state’s court systems.