By Kevin D. Sawyer
The majority of prisoners sent to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation come from Los Angeles County, according to a recent study by the Prison Policy Initiative.
The study documents the highest rate of imprisonment is concentrated in Los Angeles’ neighborhoods located in the South Central region of the city.
“Counties that contain urban or more densely populated areas—like Los Angeles County (which is home to more than 10 million Californians) and the nearby counties of Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange—tend to send the most people to prison,” the group’s research shows.
The incarceration rate in state prison per 100,000 residents in South Central L.A. is 773 – 1,093, the study shows. The city of Compton is in this region.
“Compton’s demographics are not the result of coincidence, but rather design,” the study’s authors reported. “In the 1950s, the city was one of the starkest examples of ‘blockbusting’ in the country. Blockbusting was a state-sanctioned predatory real estate practice, in which brokers ‘intentionally stoked fears of racial integration and declining property values to push white homeowners to sell at a loss,’ and then resold the properties to Black families at above-market rates.”
Overall, “Los Angeles County has an imprisonment rate of 402 per 100,000,” said the report. And, at the time of the 2020 Census, “more than 40,000 people in California state prisons called Los Angeles County home.”
In the city of Inglewood, 585 people per 100,000 are imprisoned. In the city of Lancaster the rate is 691 per 100,000. Both cities are located in Los Angeles County.
Additionally, the report stated that “Los Angeles has a long history of racist policing and divesting from its communities of color.” The study noted that Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately policed and imprisoned throughout the county.
The Prison Policy Initiative found people incarcerated in CDCR prisons also came from some of the state’s largest cities, such as San Diego, Sacramento, and Fresno.
Less populated, rural counties such as Kings, Shasta, Tehama, and Yuba—and smaller cities like Avenal, Red Bluff, Corcoran, and Sonora—have high rates of incarceration too.
For example, the study found that Del Norte, Siskiyou, Shasta, Lake, Tehama, Tulare, and Kings Counties all have an imprisonment rate of 451- 666 per 100,000.
“Around the country, high imprisonment rates are correlated with other community issues related to poverty, employment, education, and health,” the group reported.
Not surprisingly, “San Francisco has one of the state’s lowest city imprisonment rates,” said the report. “But some communities have rates far above the city average.”
Take, for example, San Francisco neighborhoods such as Hayes Valley, Bayview, Hunters Point, Silver Terrace and Sunnydale. There, state prison incarceration rates per 100,000 neighborhood residents is 226 – 358, according to the report.
“The city wide imprisonment rate of 118 per 100,000 people in San Francisco is about three times lower than that of Los Angeles. But residence data show that some San Francisco communities—particularly Black communities—are disproportionately affected by mass incarceration.”
According to the study, San Francisco is only 5% Black, yet 38% of those arrested by the police in the city are Black. Statistics show that Blacks were stopped at a rate “more than five and a half times that of white people in the city and were ten times as likely to be searched as white people.”
The study cited San Francisco’s stark example of historic redlining, one of the highest in the country. In the 1930s, for example, “the federal government rated the ‘riskiness’ of real estate investment in different neighborhoods, resulting in rating non-white neighborhoods as ‘hazardous’ and beginning a cycle of disinvestment in these predominately Black and immigrant neighborhoods.”
The report stated that the large number of adults removed from communities that have relatively small geographical areas has a direct impact on the health and stability of families 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,” said the report.