By Mike Males.

Fresno County, situated in California’s Central Valley, has a projected 2014 population of 972,724 (Demographic Research Unit, 2014). Fresno is the largest city in the country with an estimated 2013 population of 508,453. The county has considerably higher rates of poverty, reported crime, adult felony arrests, and adult incarceration in state prisons and local jails than the state average (see Figure 1).

This analysis utilizes official statewide data sources to examine Fresno County’s state and local incarceration trends in comparison to the statewide average. The data demonstrates a significant reduction in the county’s utilization of state prison beds; however, the county continues to detain high numbers of individuals arrested for nonviolent offenses within the local jail system.

In the post-Realignment era, Fresno County has submitted an SB 1022 application for $79,194,000 to build a new West Annex Jail facility. The three-story facility will house 300 medium and high security individuals and include treatment facilities and programming space. The South Annex Jail (SAJ) will subsequently be closed, resulting in a net loss of 199 beds. The full county proposal was granted conditional award on March 13, 2014.



Key Findings:

  • Fresno County’s adult felony arrest rate is more than double that of the state average. The county’s violent crime arrest rates are 59% higher, drug felony arrest rates 69% highers, property felony rates 48% higher, and all other felony rates nearly three times higher than the state average. All races are arrested at much higher rates than their counterparts statewide.
  • Reported crime in Fresno County declined at rates similar to statewide trends, but remain substantially higher than the statewide average. In 2012, the county’s rate of reported Part I offenses remained 55% above the statewide average. Property crime rates are 59% higher than the statewide average, while violent felony rates are 27% higher.
  • Fresno County’s incarceration rate has fallen significantly faster than the state’s over the last seven years (see Figure 1). While the county’s incarceration rate is higher than expected for its population, it is lower than expected for its felony arrest rate, which is twice the state average.
  • Fresno County’s jail incarceration rate is erratic. The incarceration rate was 2% above the state average in 2011, 28% above in 2012, and 6% above in 2013. The extent to which local jail numbers are driven by incarceration for nonviolent offenses requires further investigation.
  • The proportion of Fresno’s jail population that is unsentenced has risen sharply in recent decades. In 2013, 85% of the jail population was unsentenced, above the state average of 63%.


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Originally posted at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.