Updated: February 14, 2023 7:46 PM UTC
Local incarceration rates reflect the decisions of local law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, probation and parole officers, and the implementation of local, state, and federal laws. Locally elected officials have the power to reduce the footprint of jails―for example, by changing enforcement priorities, reducing pretrial detention, pursuing alternatives to incarceration, and ending contracts to hold people for other agencies. Use the charts below to examine how Alameda County’s use of jail has changed over time.
Number of people in jail
Number of people incarcerated per 100,000 residents ages 15 to 64
Alameda CountyCalifornia totalU.S. total
*Note: The sentenced population includes people who are serving sentences in a local jail. Jail sentences are typically given to people serving brief sentences, usually for misdemeanor or low-level felony convictions. In some states, the sentenced population also includes people who have been convicted of charges and are awaiting transfer to state facilities and people convicted of felonies who are housed in local jails to alleviate overcrowding in the state prison system.
The number of women held in local jails has grown exponentially in the last several decades, outpacing rates of growth for men. Women are particularly vulnerable to the harms of incarceration for several reasons: the majority of women in custody have experienced trauma, have unmet mental and physical health needs, are single mothers, and come from low-income communities of color. Use the charts below to view women’s jail population and jail admission counts and rates in your county since 1970.
Racial Disparities in Incarceration
Black people are treated more harshly than white people at every stage of the criminal legal process. As a result, people of color―and Black people in particular―are incarcerated at strikingly higher rates than white people in jails and prisons across the country. The bar graphs below show the proportion of people in jail who are from each racial group against that group’s share of the general resident population.
Resident population, as a percentage of total populationAsian American/Pacific IslanderBlack/African AmericanLatinxNative AmericanWhite
Asian American/Pacific Islander
Use the charts below to see how racial disparities in jail incarceration have changed over time.
Jail population vs resident population by race
Asian American/Pacific Islander
Although Latinx people are overrepresented in jails and prisons nationally, common misclassification leads to distorted, lower estimates of Latinx incarceration rates and distorted, higher estimates of white incarceration rates.
Jail Population Held for Other Authorities
The majority of jails today “rent” jail beds to other jurisdictions―including other counties, state prisons, or federal authorities like the Federal Marshals, the Bureau of Prisons, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This practice that can contribute to overcrowding and ties a county’s financial interests to incarceration. Local jail administrators and elected officials have the power to reduce the footprint of their jails by canceling contracts that provide jail space to other authorities.
Total people held for other jurisdictions per 100,000 residents ages 15 to 64
Jail population, by jurisdiction
Comparing Jail and Prison Incarceration
Although the terms “jail” and “prison” are commonly used interchangeably, jails are locally run facilities that primarily hold people who are arrested and are awaiting a resolution to their case, while prisons are state or federal institutions where people who have been convicted of crimes are sent to serve sentences of imprisonment. Since almost one in three incarcerated people nationwide are held in jails, incarceration must be measured using numbers that represent people in both jails and prisons. Looking at jail and prison metrics in tandem can illuminate whether incarceration has risen, declined, or shifted between states and counties.
Other countiesAlameda County
Jail vs prison population rate
Note: Prison population rates reflect the number of people in state prisons who came from each county.