Vera Institute of Justice launches data hub on incarceration in California

The Vera Institute of Justice has launched a new data hub providing comprehensive information on incarceration and detention spending in California to policy makers, advocates, researchers and the wider public.

California: The State of Incarceration” seeks to support evidence-based policy making and advocacy through transparent and accessible data at the state and county level. Pulling from 23 different sources and research studies, the data hub gathers, maps, and analyzes jail and prison populations, corrections budgets, racial demographics in arrests, and much more on a single platform for the first time.

“Data is a critical tool for understanding and addressing mass incarceration in California,” said Insha Rahman, Vera’s vice president of advocacy and partnerships. “By providing policy makers, advocates, and the public with comprehensive data on incarceration, arrests, and spending, Californians can identify consequential interventions at the state and local level to change their criminal legal system for the better.”

Despite California’s progressive reputation, the state remains an epicenter of mass incarceration in America — locking up more people than any state except Texas. Each year, California law enforcement agencies make more than 800,000 arrests and book people into county jail more than 600,000 times and courts send almost 35,000 people to prison. While the state has made significant progress in recent years reducing the number of people held in prison and jail, California is outspending its actual use of incarceration. This year, the state is set to spend $18 billion on the criminal legal system — not including additional billions spent at the county and city levels. In 2021, California counties put $19 billion into policing, jails, probation, and the judicial system, while cities spent $14 billion on policing.

“We believe that California has the potential to be a leader in criminal legal reform, but that progress will require a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the state,” said Michelle Parris, director of Vera California. “We hope that our data hub will serve as a key resource for those working to create a more fair, effective, and humane system in California and beyond.”

Access to accurate, comprehensive data is fundamental to developing evidence-based policies that improve outcomes for all Californians. Vera California collaborates with government leaders and community partners, working together toward a vision of safety, wellness, and racial justice for all Californians. We seek to reduce incarceration and spark investments in long-underfunded community-based programs, provide trusted data and policy analysis to produce concrete solutions centering racial equity, and bring expertise on best practices from around the country to local conversations in California.

About the Vera Institute of Justice
The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and policy experts working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit vera.org.