California Fact Sheet


California Fact Sheet

The state of California is composed of 58 counties, with a total 39.51 million residents. It is the most populous state in the U.S., and is incredibly diverse, with no racial or ethnic group claiming a majority: 39% Latinx; 36% white; 15% Asian American and Pacific Islander; 6% African American; 3% multiracial; and >1% Native American.

Of the state’s 6 million students, about half are reading at grade level, and 25% are deficient in basic reading skills. Within the state’s 58 counties, there are 180 library systems.

California has an incarceration rate of 581 per 100,000 people, and has the second highest prison population in the U.S. Of the several forms of carceral facilities, California possesses 35 state prisons, 35 prison fire camps, 113 jails, 55 juvenile halls, 12 federal prisons, and 8 federal prison camps.

As of 2018, the Prison Policy Initiative recorded the following: 131,000 people in state prisons; 82,000 people in local jails; 6,700 people in youth facilities; 16,000 people in federal prisons; and, under state criminal justice supervision, there are 90,000 people on parole, and 236,000 people on probation. (Carceral populations have shifted since the Covid-19 pandemic, but clear, definitive numbers are not yet routinely available.)

California’s largest counties have the highest number of people in jails, but the highest rates of incarceration are in rural areas and small cities. African Americans comprise 28% of the population that is incarcerated, Latinx 41%, whites 26%, Asian Americans 2%, and Native Americans 1%. In the past 40 years the number of women in prisons has increased six-fold, the number of women in jails has increased five-fold.

It costs the state approximately $81,000 per adult incarcerated per year, and $284,000 per child incarcerated per year. In a state that contains 27% of the people experiencing homelessness in the U.S., formerly incarcerated people are 10 times more likely to experience homelessness.

California defines recidivism as when a person is convicted of a crime within 3 years of release from a carceral facility: people rearrested on felony charges number 66% of those previously released; 50% of people released from prison are rearrested.

Family & community support, physical & mental health care services, and education & employment assistance are the central dominant pillars of post-release success.

Recidivism is reduced dramatically through education and employment assistance: people who earn a GED are only 55% likely to be rearrested; people who obtain vocational training are 30% likely; people who earn an Associate’s degree are 13.7% likely; and people who obtain a Bachelor's + degree are 5.6% likely to be rearrested.

This is where libraries come in.

When libraries actively work to ensure that their programs and services extend to all members of their communities, there can only be a significant decrease in recidivism and a significant increase in the percentage of the community using libraries. Through literacy programs and tutoring, writing workshops and study groups, partnerships with local community non-profit organizations hosting programs such as author talks and lawyers-in-the-library, and through extensive materials collections and empathetic customer services, libraries statewide can help guarantee that all members of our communities are welcomed, served, and represented.

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