A new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice shows that Valley Counties on average send more people to jail and state prison than the rest of the state. Kings County topped the list with the state's highest per capita population in state prison, over 1,500 adults for every 100,000 people. Tulare and Kern counties weren't far behind.
Kings County also had the highest overall incarceration rate in the state, which combines both county jail and state prison populations. For every 1,000 adult felony arrests last year, Kings County had over 1,300 inmates sentenced in state prison.
"Kings County does appear at the top of every metric involved with state incarceration and certainly higher on the jail incarceration rates though not at the top, " said Selena Teji, from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.
She says that the reliance on incarcerating criminals instead of alternative programs could be a problem, now that the state's criminal justice "realignment," also known as AB109, is reducing the state prison population and shifting inmates to county jails.
"Over the last eight months of realignment, they [Kings County] have actually received a lot more responsibility for those low level offenders under AB109. They’ve seen a big, I think, 54 percent increase of new criminal justice population that they have to supervise," said Teji.
She says Valley counties may want to look to the model of others throughout the state. "For example Santa Cruz again, [which is] investing in pre-trial alternatives, investing in alternatives to incarceration. San Francisco is another example which has a long history of providing community based organizations providing services to the criminal justice population. It's been incredibly successful," said Teji.
There was some good news however. Kings County had one of the lowest reported crime rates in the state, unlike Fresno and Kern Counties, which were number 3 and 4 out of California’s 58 counties.