Deaths Reported From 2005 - 2014
An average of 684 deaths per year
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. These pages present an in-depth analysis of the 6,837 deaths reported between 2005 and 2014. The figures displayed on this page were produced using Death in Custody & Arrest-Related Deaths data current as of August 2015. The following dataset is from August 2015.
What was the manner of death?
Most deaths in custody from 2005 to 2014 resulted from natural causes such as illnesses. 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.
At what stages of custody did the deaths occur?
Most deaths in custody occurred among jail and prison inmates serving their sentences after a conviction. Roughly one-third of deaths occurred during the process of arrest or in a pre-trial stage of custody.
How have these numbers changed over time?
More than half of the deaths in custody were reported by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), which manages the state prison system. 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 20% in 2010 to 29% in 2014 while CDCR has dropped from 61% to 48%. Police departments and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) accounted for approximately 15% and 2%, respectively, over that same time period.
Deaths Per Agency Over Time
What was the most serious arrest or conviction offense committed by those who died?
The following data refers to the most serious offense for which the subject was detained, arrested, charged, or incarcerated at the time of death. More than 92% of deaths in custody occurred among persons who committed a felony. Over half of the crimes were violent felonies. In an incident where a formal arrest had not been made, this refers to the most serious offense for which the individual would have been arrested.
What was the race/ethnicity of those who died?
Whites accounted for the largest share of the reported deaths in custody. Hispanics accounted for 29% and Blacks accounted for 24%.
How does the race/ethnicity of those who died compare to other statewide statistics?
Blacks are significantly overrepresented when compared to the CA population; however, that gap closes when compared to those who have been arrested or incarcerated. White deaths are in proportion to their share of the state population; they are overrepresented compared to arrests and incarcerations. Hispanics have a higher share of the population, arrests, and incarcerations than deaths. Asians have a significantly higher proportion of the state population than deaths, arrests, and incarcerations. Native Americans are approximately the same across all.
How old were those who died?
The average age of individuals who died in custody was 48 years old. Those who died of natural causes were older on average (55 years old). Those who died by homicide and suicide tended to be younger (34 and 38 years old, respectively).
What was the gender of those who died?
Males accounted for nearly all deaths in custody (94%) between 2005 and 2014. During that period, males made up 78% of all arrests and 94% of those incarcerated.