The county rankings on crime and justice aim to provide a snapshot of how counties fare in relation to each other based on the following indicators: arrests for status offenses; uses of force, incarceration, and perceptions of safety. Numerous indicators not included may help provide a more accurate measure of how crime and justice is playing out in a particular jurisdiction, but could not be included in the Index for this issue area because of dataset challenges, such as uniform collection and reporting across jurisdictions, insufficient public access, disaggregation by race and ethnicity, among other things. Thus, users of this page can consider it a high-level snapshot to be supplemented with more localized data (both qualitative and quantitative) to get a more holistic understanding of crime and justice in a particular community.
The data showcases that Black Californians are exceptionally devastated by numerous aspects of the criminal justice system. For example, it is appalling that Black Californians are 17 times more likely to be subjected to a use of force by police than the group with the lowest rate. The War on Drugs and zero-tolerance policies led to an explosion in the prison population, disproportionately affecting Black men.
As we recover from the pandemic and pandemic relief funds wind-down, at the forefront of the racial justice movement is to reimagine our approach to public safety. U.S. policing has been a historical tool used to maintain and control Blacks, from its roots in slavery and Jim Crow to contemporary racial profiling, stop-search-frisk policies, and gang injunctions.
Throughout California, community leaders advocate divesting from decades of over-investment in crime and punishment and reinvesting resources into care-based services and supports to address the root causes of many communities’ safety challenges. This pivot means reducing sentences, increasing prevention and resources in low-income neighborhoods to help the formerly incarcerated rehabilitate into society and prevent violence without increasing policing. Advocates’ strategies have pushed to win state-level reforms while watchdogging county-level implementation, including the Proposition 47 sentencing reform, limiting jail expansion, and closing jails. However, more needs to be done on this issue area, particularly around over-policing in communities of color and targeting people of color. Since many of those incarcerated need social services, public officials can eliminate these disparities by allocating additional dollars to the provision of housing, substance abuse treatment, and other social services that residents in many communities of color need.
Diversifying the police force – combined with institutional practices and officer trainings to address implicit bias – can improve relations with police and communities of color.