Deaths in Custody from 2008 to 2017
California law enforcement agencies report to the California Department of Justice information on any death that occurs while an individual is: (1) in the process of arrest; (2) killed by use of force by law enforcement; (3) in the temporary custody of a law enforcement agency; or (4) incarcerated in a city, county, or state correctional facility. This page presents information on the 7,057 deaths reported between 2008 and 2017.
- The majority of deaths in custody from 2008 to 2017 resulted from natural causes such as illnesses among jail and prison inmates serving their sentences after a conviction. Roughly one-fifth of deaths occurred during the process of arrest. Homicide by law enforcement officers or staff and suicide among the incarcerated were the second and third leading causes of death. The fourth leading cause was accidental deaths.
- Since the passage of Public Safety Realignment in 2011 - which mandated that individuals sentenced for specific non-violent offenses be housed in county jails rather than state prisons - the share of deaths in custody reported from county sheriff's departments (who manage county jail systems) has grown from 17.1 percent in 2010 to 22.2 percent in 2014 while CDCR has dropped from 59.3 percent to 47.1 percent during the same timeframe. In 2017, the percentage of jail deaths dropped back down to 18.2 percent and the percentage of CDCR deaths grew to 53.8 percent.
- The average age of individuals who died in custody was 50 years old. Those who died of natural causes were older on average (63 years old). Those who died by homicide and suicide tended to be younger (35 and 37 years old, respectively).