The California Sentencing Institute (CASI) criminal and juvenile justice interactive map now shows annual criminal and juvenile justice statistics for 2009-2014. The map provides users with county-by-county visual comparisons illustrating law enforcement practices, incarceration rates, and trends over the course of six years.
Given the shift in criminal justice policies stemming from Public Safety Realignment in 2011 and juvenile justice realignment in 2007, the CASI map provides a useful visual tool for understanding and monitoring how counties implement statewide policy changes. When all relevant 2015 data becomes available, this map will be updated to show changes in California justice practices after the implementation of Proposition 47.
As in previous years, in 2014, Kings County continues to rank highest in its dependency on state prisons, demonstrating the prevalence of incarceration in this county. For its sixth consecutive year, Kings County also ranks highest in total incarceration rates, which includes county jail and state prison incarceration rates per 1,000 felonies. Perhaps contributing to its high incarceration rate is the presence of three men’s state prisons in the county, and, as of December 31, 2014, a large pre-trial population in its county jails, where 92 percent of people in Kings County jails were unsentenced, or pretrial. Given that only 23 percent of Kings County’s 2014 arrests were for violent felonies, it seems this jurisdiction is overlooking an opportunity to reduce its reliance on incarceration through the use of pretrial services, particularly for those charged with nonviolent offenses. Sikiyou, Madera, San Francisco, Yuba, Merced, Tuolumne, Sutter and Modoc counties all had unsentenced jail populations of over 80 percent.
In 2014, San Francisco had the highest total reported crime rate for the second year in a row, followed by Alameda and San Joaquin counties. San Francisco’s reported crime rate was comprised of 87 percent reported property crimes, and 13 percent violent offenses. Eighty-four percent of Alameda and 82 percent of San Joaquin counties’ reported crimes were for property offenses. San Francisco, Alameda, and Shasta counties saw the highest rates of reported violent offenses in 2014. In 2013, the counties with the highest rates of reported violent offenses were San Francisco, Alameda, and Modoc. While all three counties experienced a decrease in the rate of reported violent crimes, Alameda and Modoc experienced more substantial decreases than San Francisco in between 2013 and 2014, while San Joaquin and Shasta experienced an increase in 2014.
The three counties with the highest county jail populations per total county population were Yuba, Lake and Glenn counties. In fact, the 10 counties with the highest jail populations were all small counties with populations below 250,000. This seems to agree with a study conducted by the Vera Institute showing that, across the United States, small and medium counties were contributing more to national incarceration rates than larger counties. Indeed, five out of California’s nine large counties (populations over 1,000,000) were among the counties with the lowest county jail populations by rate.
On the juvenile side, Inyo County proved to be most dependent on the state juvenile system, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Inyo County committed young people to DJJ at the highest rate, both per juvenile felony arrests and per the county’s total youth population, suggesting a failure to prioritize local services for youth. In 2014, Inyo also had the highest rate of new commitments to DJJ at a time when youth crime has plummeted to an all-time low in California. This drop in youth crime is especially dramatic for violent offenses committed by young people.
Kings, Lake and San Francisco counties had the highest juvenile arrest rates in 2014, with Kings County maintaining among the highest rates of youth arrest from 2011-2014, and San Francisco showing very high youth arrest rates for 2009-2014. A possible explanation for San Francisco’s high arrest rates on both the adult and juvenile sides could be that it is a county that is also a city, and cities tend to have to higher crime and arrest rates.
Consistent with the findings of a June 2016 CJCJ report studying the prosecution of youth as adults in California counties, Yuba County by far showed the highest rates of direct transfer of youth to adult courts in 2014. Yuba County had the highest ranking in this category for both 2013 and 2014, with Kings and Sutter counties also ranking consistently high for the 2009-2014 period.
The practice of directly prosecuting youth as adults, also known as direct file, is a problematic practice that removes judicial discretion and allows the district attorney to file charges against youth in criminal court, which could result in an adult prison sentence. This practice is shown to have a disparate impact on youth of color compared to white youth, and the use of direct file in a county depends more on the politics of the district attorney than the prevalence of youth crime.
This piece first appeared in the CJCJ blog