Mark Koetting and Vincent Schiraldi



Singapore West: The Incarceration of 200,000 Californians

Mark Koetting and Vincent Schiraldi document the highest ever rate of incarceration for the State of California. Its system of prisons and jails locks up more people–as a percentage of the general population–than any other nation in the world. Moreover, African Americans in California are imprisoned at nine times the rate of whites. Although African Americans constitute under seven percent of the state’s total population, they make up 32% of prison inmates. Similarly, though Latinos account for 24% of the state’s total population, they make up 34% of the CDC’s population. If these two groups were imprisoned at the rate of whites, the CDC’s total population would be less than half its current number. California’s incarceration and crime rates, both of which have risen dramatically in recent years, are contrasted with the rates of many nations throughout the world. The data suggest that if California were a nation, it would lead the world in both categories. The authors’ review of the data suggests that there is no necessary link between a higher rate of incarceration and a lower rate of crime. Indeed, the prodigious expansion of the state’s correctional system has yielded a negligible impact on crime, especially violent crime. Specific policy recommendations urging the implementation of a more effective and less expensive crime control strategy are presented.

California; crime and politics; government repression; prison sentences; prisoners

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 24: 1 (1997): 40-53