Report shows every community is harmed by mass incarceration
OAKLAND – On August 31, 2022, the Essie Justice Group and the Prison Policy Initiative released a new report, Where people in prison come from: The geography of mass incarceration in California, that provides an in-depth look at where people incarcerated in California state prisons come from.
The report also provides 20 detailed data tables — including localized data for Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno and Santa Clara County — that serve as a foundation for advocates, organizers, policymakers, data journalists, academics, and others to analyze how incarceration relates to other factors of community well-being. These tables provide residence information for people in California state prisons at the time of the 2020 Census, offering a clear look at which communities are most impacted by mass incarceration – broken down by the number of people locked up by county, city, town, zip code, legislative district, census tract and other areas.
The data and report are made possible by the state’s landmark 2011 law that requires that people in prison be counted as residents of their hometown rather than in prison cells when state and local governments redistrict every ten years.
The report shows:
- Every single county — and every state legislative district — is missing a portion of its population to incarceration in state prison.
- While no county sends as many people to prison as Los Angeles County, many of the state’s smaller counties, including Kings, Shasta, Tehama, and Yuba, have a far larger portion of their residents imprisoned.
- There are dramatic differences in incarceration rates within communities, often along racial and economic lines. For example, in Los Angeles the 14 neighborhoods with the highest imprisonment rates are clustered in South Central Los Angeles, where 57% of residents are Latino, 38% are Black, and 2% are white. Meanwhile, the LA neighborhoods with the lowest imprisonment rates are mostly in the predominately white and wealthier Westside region.
- The large number of adults extracted from a relatively small number of geographical areas seriously impacts the health and stability of the families and communities left behind. It specifically impacts women and gender non-conforming people, where 1 in 4 women and 1 in 2 Black women have an incarcerated loved one.
According to the report, these geographic disparities are not an accident, but are the result of long-standing racist policies and decisions about where to invest resources rather than the result of criminality or other behavioral issues within communities of color. As previous research has shown, practices and policies across the country related to arrests, drug enforcement (including marijuana arrests in New York and California), searches (including stop-and-frisk), pretrial detention, bail decisions, drug stings, and asset forfeiture have contributed to these racial disparities at every level of the criminal legal system.
“Incarceration’s impact on women, Black women in particular, can no longer be ignored,” says Gina Clayton-Johnson, Essie Justice Group’s Founder and Executive Director. “This report chillingly describes which California counties are complicit in driving the state’s abysmal incarceration rates. These updated numbers demonstrate that our story of anti-Black, anti-woman inequity in this state is not history, it is now, and it requires immediate action from lawmakers and voters to rectify.”
These data sets can be used to determine the best locations for community-based programs that help prevent involvement with the criminal legal system, such as Offices of Community Safety as described in the BREATHE Act and mental health response teams that work independently from police departments as modeled statewide through the passage of the CRISES Act (AB 2054, 2020) in California. The data can also help guide reentry services (which are typically provided by nonprofit community organizations) to areas of California that need them most.
Source: Press Release