Incarceration impacts all of San Diego County — but some communities are more affected than others.
New data from the Prison Policy Initiative shows 8,800 residents of San Diego County were living in California state prisons at the time of the 2020 U.S. Census. And a disproportionate number of them are coming from Southern San Diego neighborhoods.
Imprisonment has the greatest impact on communities with more people of color, the data shows. In City Heights, Barrio Logan, Encanto and Southeast San Diego, incarceration rates are roughly double the state average.
Meanwhile, residents in Encinitas, La Jolla and Coronado — some of the wealthiest areas of the county — are about half as likely as the average Californian to be living behind bars.
The disparity doesn’t come as a surprise to Laila Aziz, the director of operations at Pillars of the Community, a nonprofit that focuses on criminal justice reform. She said San Diego’s communities of color have long been overrepresented in jails and prisons.
“You’re still having a disparity in Black and brown folks being sentenced more harshly and for longer time periods,” Aziz said.
The new data provides one of the clearest pictures yet of how imprisonment affects California communities. It was compiled after the state passed a historic law to end “prison gerrymandering,” which classified incarcerated people as residents of the towns they are imprisoned in, rather than the towns they come from.
Criminal justice reform groups have long sought to end the practice, arguing it inflates the U.S. Census counts for locations with more prisons, which are often rural with small populations. Those totals are used to draw regional boundaries and can impact state legislative districts.
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