Los Angeles County asked the Vera Institute to study its criminal justice system, identify inefficiencies, and recommend strategies to make better use of jail space. Vera staff analyzed the county’s jail data, examined policies and processes that affect the jail’s population size, and recommended steps the county can take to alleviate jail overcrowding.
This work was sponsored by the Los Angeles Board of County Supervisors and the Countywide Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee (CCJCC), a legislatively mandated stakeholder group charged with improving the local criminal justice system. It involved three phases:
Phase 1: Data Collection - Staff developed a plan to collect and analyze information from the county’s criminal justice agencies. Sample information included how many people are being admitted to the jails, who they are, and how long they stay. Staff also collected data to assess how people flow through the criminal justice system and examined criminal court processes, mechanisms that allow people to be released as they await their court date, and alternatives to jail.
Phase 2: Analysis - Staff analyzed the jail population to create profiles of typical offenders and discover trends in how jail is being used. They also identified key decision points that affect the jail population size and bottlenecks that cause inefficiencies and delays that may keep people in jail.
Phase 3: Recommendations - In partnership with members of the CCJCC’s Jail Overcrowding Subcommittee, Vera staff recommended a series of options to address the system’s challenges. These included calls for new programs, systemwide policy changes, and the reallocation of resources.
Why Los Angeles?
The Los Angeles County jail is the largest jail in the United States, with approximately 171,000 people booked annually and a 2009 daily population close to 19,000. Jail overcrowding is not a problem that “belongs” to the jail. It is the result of myriad factors within the criminal justice system, and Vera's recommendations reflect this complexity.
For more information about CSC's work in Los Angeles County, contact Fred Patrick.