Jail Incarceration Rate

While this report focuses on local jail incarceration rates, the corrections system is composed of a multitude of governmental and nongovernmental organizations. Those organizations include city, county, and federal jails, state and federal prisons, territorial prisons, private prisons, youth detention facilities, immigration detention facilities, Indian Country jails, military prisons, as well as certain facilities (such as psychiatric hospitals) where people are involuntarily committed. In 2022, almost 2 million people were incarcerated across the U.S. That is a rate of 573 per 100,000 residents, the highest in the world.[1] Another nearly 4 million people were under some other type of correctional supervision: 822,000 on parole and 2.9 million on probation.[2]
 Incarceration has wide-reaching consequences for people, their families, and communities. In the U.S., people living in poverty (already at high risk of poor health[3]) are disproportionately incarcerated.[4] Incarceration can induce withdrawal symptoms in people with addictions who are not properly treated in jail or prison and exacerbate mental health problems when people are placed in solitary confinement or high-security or supermax facilities.[5] Controlling for prior health, experiencing incarceration increases people’s risks of chronic health problems, infectious diseases, stress-related illnesses, and self-reported low health over the course of their lives.[6] The mortality rate among incarcerated Hispanic and White men is higher than their non-incarcerated peers.[7] In the first two weeks after release from incarceration, the mortality rate of all just-released people is about 13 times higher than for the general population.[8]
 Negative health effects of incarceration extend to families and communities. Children experiencing parental incarceration are at higher risk of engaging in antisocial behaviors.[9] Women with incarcerated family members are at higher risk for reporting fair-to-poor health and experiencing obesity, heart attack, and stroke.[10] People living in communities with high incarceration rates have higher odds of being diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, even if they have never been incarcerated themselves.[11] In addition, the incarceration rate in communities has been associated with higher infant mortality rates, lower female life expectancy, and higher AIDS infection rates.[12]
 In the U.S., there are marked disparities in jail and prison incarceration by race and ethnicity. Black people are prominently overrepresented in jails and prisons. They comprise only 12% of the U.S. population but 38% of those incarcerated. [13] Latinos make up 18% of the U.S. population but 21% of the incarcerated population. Similarly, Native Americans make up 0.9% of the U.S. population but 2% of the incarcerated population. Despite comprising 60% of the U.S. population, White people make up 38% of those incarcerated. Though sentencing disparities have been declining over time, they have not been eliminated.[14],[15]
 One of the functions jails serve is pretrial detention. Jails hold some, though not all, people until the time of their trial.[16] Research suggests that people who were detained are more likely to plead guilty, to be sentenced to jail or prison, and to receive a longer sentence than those who were not, even controlling for demographic characteristics such as race and legal characteristics such as the type of charge and prior arrests.[17],[18],[19]
 The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is responsible for the operation of all public jail services for San Diego County: people incarcerated by both the Sheriff’s department and municipal police are held in one of the seven facilities operated by the Sheriff’s department. To examine incarceration in San Diego County, the jail incarceration rate per capita was analyzed using the Annual Survey of Jails from 2021 collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.[20] This report examines the confined population of adults (ages 18 years and older) on June 30, 2021, which is essentially a point-in-time count. This measure is limited because jail populations are in a near-constant state of flux. Some people, for example, are arrested, sent to jail, make bail within a few hours, and released, while others cannot make bail and are held until their trial. The Annual Survey of Jails only disaggregates the average daily population by sex, so this report presents the point-in-time count that includes counts by race/ethnicity as well as sex. The Annual Survey of Jails does not report on immigrant status or disability status.
 The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department does not have a Multiracial category in their jail information management system, so a one-to-one comparison of the racial/ethnic composition of the county to the jail population is not possible. Therefore, the per capita jail incarceration rate that is reported should be considered the upper-bound incarceration rate, calculated by only counting single-race people in their respective categories.
Figures 1 and 2 show the jail incarceration rate per 100,000 residents by race/ethnicity and sex.[21] In San Diego County in 2021, the per capita incarceration rate was 115.2 per 100,000 residents, lower than the national rate of 192 per 100,000. [22] The per capita incarceration rate of Black of African American people housed in San Diego Sheriff’s detention facilities was six times greater than that of White people. Hispanic or Latino and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander people were incarcerated just over twice the rate of White people. American Indian and Alaska Natives were incarcerated just over twice the rate of White people. Asian people had the lower incarceration rate at 25.2 per 100,000 people. Men were incarcerated at seven times the rate of women (200.7 per 100,000 compared to 27.5 per 100,000, respectively).
 In San Diego County in 2021, 71% of incarcerated persons had not been convicted of a crime or were awaiting court action on their most serious charge (Figure 3), comparable to the percent of people in jail who had not been convicted of a crime in the U.S. in 2021.[23] Bail allows people accused but not convicted of a crime to stay in the community until their trial, but sets financial conditions, and sometimes other nonfinancial conditions[24], upon this release. This figure does not reflect whether these people ultimately bailed out of custody.[25] Further, closures and modified operations of court procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in reduced capacity and delayed hearing dates, may have increased the number of people awaiting court action in 2021.
 Nationally, a county’s poverty rate is among the strongest predictors of its jail incarceration rate.[26],[27] In San Diego County, the racial/ethnic group with the highest incarceration rate (Black or African American) also had the highest poverty rate in 2021 (see Poverty). To begin addressing inequities in incarceration that exacerbate negative health and wealth outcomes for minoritized populations, experts recommend eliminating the money bail system,[28] reducing pretrial detention and refocusing the correctional systems’ structure toward reform. Money bail puts a price on release, thereby making it more accessible to those with wealth. Incarceration without reform interventions does not just hurt the incarcerated, it also harms public safety for everyone. That is because while pretrial detention has a short-term incapacitation effect―i.e., people in jail cannot engage in additional criminal behavior outside of the jail― in the long term it actually increases the risk of recidivism (i.e., rearrest after release).[29],[30] Indeed, changes to pretrial booking policies in San Diego County during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that of the people that that had contact with the police for low-level offenses during that timeframe, nearly half did not have a second encounter with the police.[31] Of the people that did have a second contact with police officers, more than 90% were for nonviolent offenses.[32] A recent review and meta-analysis on the impact of incarceration (including in jails, prisons, juvenile detention facilities, and other detention facilities) on reoffending concluded,
 “All sophisticated assessments of the research have independently reached the same conclusion. The null effect of custodial compared with noncustodial sanctions is considered a ‘criminological fact.’ Incarceration cannot be justified on the grounds it affords public safety by Correctional settings] are unlikely to reduce reoffending unless they can be transformed into people-changing institutions on the basis of available evidence on what works organizationally to reform offenders.”[33]   
 In 2021, the Board of Supervisors considered a Board Letter noting the negative effects of mass incarceration, particularly for the poor, those experiencing homelessness, mentally ill, and people of color. The Board approved recommendations for the County to hire a consultant to research the impact of COVID-19 on incarceration policy and practice, with particular attention to policy interventions that could permanently and safely reduce the San Diego jail population.[34] In response to the Board’s direction, the County selected SANDAG to conduct the research.[35] On May 23, 2023, the County committed to a number of policy interventions to both prevent legal system involvement and prioritize alternatives to incarceration, including expanding community-based rehabilitative options supporting pretrial release. The full list of interventions can be accessed at Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Work Plan – May 23, 2023.

Data Information
Data Sources: Annual Survey of Jails, 2021; 2021 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates from IPUMS USA.
Multiracial does not exist as a category in the Jail Information Management System. The per capita jail incarceration rate should be considered an upper-bound estimate.
References
  1.   Sawyer, W., & Wagner, P. (2022). Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2022. Prison Policy Initiative. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2022.html
  2.   Ibid.
  3.   Massoglia, M., & Pridemore, W. A. (2015). Incarceration and health. Annual Review of Sociology, 41, 291–310.
  4.   Rabuy, B., & Kopf, D. (2015, July 9). Prisons of Poverty: Uncovering the pre-incarceration incomes of the imprisoned. Prison Policy Initiative. Retrieved from https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/income.html
  5.   Dumont, D. M., Brockmann, B., Dickman, S., Alexander, N., & Rich, J. D. (2012). Public health and the epidemic of incarceration. Annual Review of Public Health, 33(1), 325–339. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031811-124614
  6.   Massoglia, M., & Pridemore, W. A. (2015). Incarceration and health. Annual Review of Sociology, 41, 291–310.
  7.   Ibid.
  8.   Ibid.
  9.   Murray, J., Farrington, D. P., & Sekol, I. (2012). Children’s antisocial behavior, mental health, drug use, and educational performance after parental incarceration: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 138(2), 175–210. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026407
  10.   Massoglia, M., & Pridemore, W. A. (2015). Incarceration and health. Annual Review of Sociology, 41, 291–310.
  11.   Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Keyes, K., Hamilton, A., Uddin, M., & Galea, S. (2015). The collateral damage of mass incarceration: Risk of psychiatric morbidity among nonincarcerated residents of high-incarceration neighborhoods. American Journal of Public Health, 105(1), 138–143. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302184
  12.   Massoglia, M., & Pridemore, W. A. (2015). Incarceration and health. Annual Review of Sociology, 41, 291–310.
  13.   Sawyer, W., & Wagner, P. (2022). Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2022. Prison Policy Initiative. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2022.html
  14.   Enders, W., Pecorino, P., & Souto, A.-C. (2019). Racial disparity in U.S. imprisonment across states and over time. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 35(2), 365–392. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-018-9389-6
  15.   King, R. D., & Light, M. T. (2019). Have racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing declined? Crime and Justice, 48, 365–437. https://doi.org/10.1086/701505
  16.   Zeng, Z. (2022). Jail inmates in 2021 – Statistical tables (NCJ 304888). Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from https://bjs.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh236/files/media/document/ji21st.pdf
  17.   Dobbie, W., Goldin, J., & Yang, C. S. (2018). The effects of pre-trial detention on conviction, future crime, and employment: Evidence from randomly assigned judges. American Economic Review, 108(2), 201–240. https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.20161503
  18.   Donnelly, E. A., & Macdonald, J. M. (2019). The downstream effects of bail and pretrial detention on racial disparities in incarceration. The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 108(4), 775–813.
  19.   Heaton, P., & Stevenson, M. (2016). The downstream consequences of misdemeanor pretrial detention. Stanford Law Review, 69, 711–794. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2809840
  20.   U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2021). Annual Survey of Jails, 2021 [Computer file]. Conducted by RTI, International. ICPSR38408. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [producer and distributor]. Retrieved from https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/web/ICPSR/series/7.
  21. This measure is limited because non-residents (e.g., tourists) can be arrested and held in the County jail, however, it is comparable to the way Oakland and King County, Washington report on incarceration. | Beatty, A., & Foster, D. (2015). The Determinants of Equity: Identifying Indicators to Establish a Baseline of Equity in King County. https://kingcounty.gov/~/media/elected/executive/equity-social-justice/2015/The_Determinants_of_Equity_Report.ashx. | Oakland Equity Indicators: Measuring Change Toward Greater Equity in Oakland. (n.d.). https://cao-94612.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/2018-Equity-Indicators-Full-Report.pdf
  22.   Zeng, Z. (2022). Jail inmates in 2021 – Statistical tables (NCJ 304888). Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from https://bjs.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh236/files/media/document/ji21st.pdf
  23.   Or, if accused of multiple crimes, had not been convicted of the most serious offense and were awaiting further court action. Ibid.
  24.   Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1988). Pretrial Release and Detention: The Bail Reform Act of 1984. Washington, DC.
  25.   Ibid.
  26.   Ouellette, H. M., & Applegate, B. K. (2022). Local incarceration as social control: A national analysis of social, economic, and political determinants of jail use in the United States. American Journal of Criminal Justice. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-022-09682-9
  27.   Weiss Riley, R., Kang-Brown, J., Mulligan, C., Valsalam, V., Chakraborty, S., & Henrichson, C. (2018). Exploring the urban–rural incarceration divide: Drivers of local jail incarceration rates in the United States. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 36(1), 76–88. https://doi.org/10.1080/15228835.2017.1417955
  28.   In 2018, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 10, making California the first state to eliminate the money bail system in favor of a risk-based release system. The text of the bill left the method of determining the risk level up to each court, however, and critics were concerned that people of color would be more likely to be considered high risk and thus more likely to be detained pretrial. In 2020, California voted against Proposition 25 which would have upheld SB 10. The following year, the California Supreme Court addressed the question of money bail, holding In Re Humphrey that pretrial detention purely on the basis of the inability to post bail is unconstitutional. Importantly, the decision did not eliminate the money bail system but states that if money bail is found to be the only option for a defendant, their ability to pay must be among the considerations. McCrum, H. (2022, May 9). California Bail Reform: Where Are We Now? Georgetown Law. Retrieved from https://www.law.georgetown.edu/poverty-journal/blog/california-bail-reform-where-are-we-now/
  29.   Dobbie, W., Goldin, J., & Yang, C. S. (2018). The effects of pre-trial detention on conviction, future crime, and employment: Evidence from randomly assigned judges. American Economic Review, 108(2), 201–240.
  30.   Heaton, P., & Stevenson, M. (2016). The downstream consequences of misdemeanor pretrial detention. Stanford Law Review, 69, 711–794. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2809840
  31.   SANDAG. (2023, March 15). A Data-Driven Approach to Protecting Public Safety, Improving and Expanding Rehabilitative Treatment and Services, and Advancing Equity Through Alternatives to Incarceration, Final Report. Retrieved from https://www.sandag.org/-/media/SANDAG/Documents/PDF/data-and-research/criminal-justice-and-public-safety/evaluation-services/adults/ati-final-report-2023-04-24.pdf
  32.   Ibid.
  33.   Petrich, D. M., Pratt, T. C., Jonson, C. L., & Cullen, F. T. (2021). Custodial sanctions and reoffending: A meta-analytic review. Crime and Justice, 50(1), p. 353. https://doi.org/10.1086/715100
  34.   The final report can be accessed at SANDAG. (2023, March 15). A Data-Driven Approach to Protecting Public Safety, Improving and Expanding Rehabilitative Treatment and Services, and Advancing Equity Through Alternatives to Incarceration, Final Report. Retrieved from https://www.sandag.org/-/media/SANDAG/Documents/PDF/data-and-research/criminal-justice-and-public-safety/evaluation-services/adults/ati-final-report-2023-04-24.pdf
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Updated February 7, 2024