Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to those who deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people.  — Isaiah 10:1

Average daily inmate population, L.A. County jails:
2013; 18,687
2023; 13,871

In the first half of 2023 (through June), Los Angeles County had an average daily inmate population of 13,871 within its jail system (down from 17,070 for all of 2019, due to reducing the incarcerated population during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020). Of the 2023 average daily inmate population, 1,470 were female.

  • Black people and other people of color experience harsher treatment at every stage of the criminal legal process.
  • Black people, in particular, are incarcerated at significantly higher rates than white people.
% incarcerated % population
Black/African-American 29% 8%
Latinx 57% 49%


The mission of the Bishop’s Commission on Gospel Justice and Community Care is “to articulate a gospel vision for policing and community care; to assess people’s personal, local experiences of policing and community safety and to advocate for public policy reform that contributes to holistic community care.” The commission was formed following the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd, which sparked worldwide protests and a national reckoning on police violence and systemic racism.

Reflection: Jesus, of course, is the benchmark for the unjustly accused, falsely tried, and ultimately shamefully murdered, with the approval of the Roman power and the betrayal of his own people. Our role in that horrible, yet God-sparked, event was that of the bored, self-absorbed spectator.

Incarceration has dramatically declined over the last decade, mostly because the overcrowding in our county jails was exacerbating the 2020-2022 plague of biblical proportions.

Despite the declining jail population statistics, the important issue of mental health among the incarcerated goes substantially unaddressed. Los Angeles County is imprisoning more people with mental illness than it did a decade ago, but is failing to provide them with basic treatment. The U.S. Department of Justice says the county jail system is decrepit, dangerous, and unfit to house anyone, let alone people with mental illness.

Jesus loved the mentally ill – not the demons that possessed them, but the real people he could see as no one else could. He was not afraid of those demons, or ignorant of their power to warp and disturb the most beautiful of God’s creation. He waded in to the midst of them, casting out the traumas, the mental obsessions, the compulsions: digging through the pain to resurrect the sacred within every human being, loosening the chains, both real and unreal, that bind so many of us. In jail, there are very few advocates for the mentally ill, except, fortunately, for our Lord and Savior. There are tiny budgets for medication, and about $100 per month per inmate for professional mental health services.

Are we to remain complacent of the conveniently invisible? Who will speak up for them? Who will pray for them? You, with your old pal, Jesus?

— Virginia Green, Ph.D., MFT, is founder and CEO of Stillwater Family Therapy Group, Inc., which serves the mental health needs of families and individuals in Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Manhattan Beach.

Image above right is a mixed-media collage by Virginia Green (pictured at top).