Spike in California Jail Killings Linked to Realignment Policy

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jail deaths

Illustration courtesy Vera Institute of Justice

Deadly violence surged in county jails across California since the state began sending thousands of inmates to local lockups instead of prisons, the result of a dramatic criminal justice transformation that left many sheriffs ill-equipped to handle a new and dangerous population, according to a joint investigation by The Sacramento Bee and ProPublica.

Since 2011, when the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to overhaul its overcrowded prisons, inmate-on-inmate homicides have risen 46 percent in county jails statewide compared with the seven years before, a McClatchy and ProPublica analysis of California Department of Justice data and autopsy records shows.

Killings tripled and even quadrupled in several counties. The increase in violent deaths in jails began soon after California officials approved sweeping reforms called “realignment” in response to the court ruling.

The result has meant the conditions in many jails now mirror those in the once-overcrowded prisons, with inmates killing each other at an increasing rate.

Additional Reading: California Crime has Declined Following Prison-Jail ‘Realignment’

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