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Los Angeles County Jail System
By the Numbers

...Updated for 2021

Los Angeles County Jail

Inmates escorted at a Los Angeles County jail. Photo by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Also see: County Correction Facilities & Jails of Los Angeles County

Here we provide an update to the 2016 CNN article "Pop. 17,049: Welcome to America's largest jail" by Breeanna Hare and Lisa Rose.

Largest Jail in the U.S.

There are 3,096 county jail jurisdictions in the United States and the Los Angeles County jail system is the largest. Because Los Angeles County’s population is larger than that of most U.S. states, its jail system holds more inmates than all jails in any of 37 U.S. states. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2019, about 2% of all U.S. county jail inmates were in the custody of Los Angeles County jails.

Budget for Los Angeles County Jails

In the 2021-2022 County of Los Angeles budget, the Sheriff’s Department, which operates county jails, had a total budget of $3.37 billion, with $842.6 million (or about 24%) of that spent on its jail system. That included $3.16 billion for payroll and benefits; $238.7 million for services and supplies; and $17.3 million for capital assets and equipment. Source: CEO of Los Angeles County.

Chance of Landing in Los Angeles County Jail After Arrest

If arrested in Los Angeles County, there is a 26% chance that you will end up in the county jail system. In 2021, there were 202,350 arrests in Los Angeles County and 53,208 of these were booked into the county jail system. This was a much lower arrest and jail incarceration rate than in pre-pandemic 2019, when, of 303,363 arrests, 110,941 (37%) ended up in county jails.

Average Daily Inmate Population Twin Towers Correctional Facility

Twin Towers Correctional Facility - largest single jail facility in the world. Photo by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

In 2021, Los Angeles County had an average daily inmate population of 14,577 within its jail system (reduced from more than 17,000 prior to 2020, due to reducing the incarcerated population during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020). Of these, 1,418 were female.

Year Average Daily Inmate Population
2021 14,577
2020 14,212
2019 17,070
2017 16,910
2017 17,024
2016 16,613
2015 17,049
2014 (1) 18,680
2013 18,687
2012 18,043
2011 (2) 15,014
2010 16,625

(1) Prop 47 enacted in Nov. 2014; (2) AB109 enacted in Oct. 2011

Also see: List of Los Angeles County Jail Facilities

Fence at Los Angeles County Jail

Overcrowded Los Angeles County Jails

By December 2020, there were 2,447 more inmates in custody than Los Angeles County’s jails were rated to hold. Earlier in 2020, from May through July, the county's jail population fell below its rated capacity of 12,406. This occurred as the county sought to respond to skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates in overcrowded jail facilities by releasing less-serious offenders. The only other time in recent memory in which Los Angeles County's jail population actually dropped below its rated capacity was from March through July of 2011. Source: Board of State and Community Corrections.

Jail Facility Board of State & Community Corrections Rated Capacity 2021 2020
4th Quarter Average Daily Inmate Population Percent Occupied 4th Quarter Average Daily Inmate Population Percent Occupied
Men’s Central Jail 3,512 3,495 100% 4,096 117%
Twin Towers Correctional Facility 2,432 2,777 114% 3,039 125%
Century Regional Detention Center 1,708 1,351 79% 1,386 81%
Pitchess Detention Center-East (3) 926 16 2% 23 2%
Pitchess Detention Center-North 830 1,181 142% 1,376 166%
Pitchess Detention Center-South 782 760 97% 474 61%
North County Correctional Facility 2,214 3,056 138% 3,746 169%

(3) Used as a fire camp for inmate firefighters

Average Time in Los Angeles County Jail

In Los Angeles County jails, by the last quarter of 2020, the average time spent in custody for all releases was 81 days (83 days if sentenced, 6 days if not sentenced). Source: Board of State and Community Corrections.

Racial Makeup of Los Angeles County Jail Population

The racial demographic for Los Angeles County’s jail population in the last quarter of 2021 was 54% Hispanic, 29% African American, and 13% White. Asians made up less than 1% and American Indians even less. African Americans made up an overly disproportionate share of the jail population as compared to their overall proportion of the overall county population (about 8 percent). To be clear, this disproportionate representation is not unique to Los Angeles County and is seen in jail populations across the nation.

Violent Offenders

Typically, the majority of Los Angeles County’s jail population is composed of nonviolent offenders. In pre-pandemic 2019, those charged with violent offenses were 45% of the inmate population. In 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts then to reduce the jail population, that percentage increased to a majority of inmates at 54%. By the last quarter of 2021, that percentage stood at 57% of the jail population.

Awaiting Trial or Sentence in Los Angeles County Jail

In the last quarter of 2021, 46% of inmates awaited trial or sentencing in Los Angeles County’s jail system. About 5% were sentenced specifically to time in county jail, 7% were sentenced to jail under AB109, and 23% were partially sentenced. About 12% awaited transfer to a California state prison. About 3% were held for parole violations. About 4% awaited transfer to mental health hospitals.

Largest Correctional Mental Health Institution in U.S.

Besides Los Angeles County’s jail system being the largest in the nation, it is also one of the largest mental health institutions in the nation. The number of inmates in the Los Angeles County jail system with mental health problems increased 137% from 2010 through 2021 (4). With few other options in the criminal justice system, a growing number of mentally ill persons in Los Angeles County end up incarcerated in jail. In 2021, the average number of inmates with mental health problems accounted for 40% of Los Angeles County's jail inmate population (up from 35% in pre-pandemic 2019). The challenge of properly handling this growing number of inmates with mental health issues only further strains an already crowded jail system. Los Angeles County is moving to construct a new facility to replace Men's Central Jail, the Mental Health Treatment Center, that will focus on mentally health treatment for inmates.

(4) Average number of mental health inmates in 2010: 2,475; Average number in 2021: 5,875.

In-Custody Programs in Los Angeles County Jails Los Angeles County Inmate Firefighters

Inmate firefighters in Los Angeles County. Photo by Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Unlike many jail facilities in the United States, the Los Angeles County jail system offers rehabilitation, educational, and vocational programs. In the last quarter of 2021, three inmates, after extensive training, were assigned to fire-fighting duties at California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation camps, including those operating in Los Angeles County. Other in-custody programs in which inmates participated were the Conservation Work Program, involving an average of 1,671 inmates in the last quarter of 2021 (2,805 in 2019), the Education-Based Incarceration Program (EBI) (traditional and nontraditional education for inmates), the Fire Camp Training Program (training fire fighters for state fire camps), the Back on Track Program (helping inmates with post-incarceration) and the Substance Treatment and Reentry Transition program (START) (treatment for inmates with substance abuse issues and help with transition into post-incarceration).

Los Angeles County Jail Staffing Los Angeles County Jail Staff on Watch

On watch at a jail in Los Angeles County. Photo by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

To oversee and care for its huge inmate population, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department currently assigns about 28% of its total staffing (4,706 employees) to its Custody Division (31% in 2019). About half of these are deputies. The rest are civilian staff such as custody assistants, medical personnel, administrative, kitchen and other support staff.

Source: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department