Yolo DA Attacks Public Defender over Claims of Disproportionate Incarcerated Black Population

It started as an interview by ABC10 following the public defender Black Lives Matter march last Monday.

During the interview, Yolo County Public Defender Tracie Olson told the news station, “Honestly we see Black people go to prison for crimes that white people don’t go to prison for…On April 20, I looked at the jail population. We had about a little under 200 people in the jail, 49 of whom were Black. So that’s 25% of our Yolo County jail population is Black. Yolo County’s demographic population is 3% black. So we have over an 800% over-representation of Black men and women in our local jail. So it is a local problem.”

Apparently that was too much for Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig.

In a press release, DA Reisig responded, calling it an “exaggerated claim” and saying, “Ms. Olson ignored the residency of those inmates from her data; verified black Yolo County residents only made up approximately 10% of the inmate population.”

He said, “Yolo County Public Defender Tracie Olson’s recent broadside against the justice system in our county was inaccurate, irresponsible, and insulting to both prosecutors and the judiciary.”

Instead, he argued, “Yolo County’s rate of prison incarceration for black inmates was around 27% below the state average for 2016, the most recent period tracked.”

Jeff Reisig said, “With the turmoil gripping this nation over racial inequities in policing and justice, the last thing we need is this type of shameful demagoguery.”

He continued, “I don’t know what propelled Ms. Olson to launch her baseless critique of justice in Yolo County,
especially while emotions are so raw in the aftermath of the George Floyd tragedy. I do know that she is wrong and I call upon her to immediately bring her allegations and any supporting documentation to the next hearing of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.”

He concluded, “Now, more than ever, we need the public we serve to have faith and reliance on the fair and racially neutral administration of justice. Ms. Olson, it is time to either put up or apologize to the police, prosecutors, and judges you have recklessly and unfairly maligned.”

He also alleges, “Ms. Olson indicts our local judges by claiming she has been witness to specific acts of discriminatory sentencing. She alleges that she has seen our judges sentencing black defendants to prison for crimes that ‘white people do not go to prison for.’

“These are remarkable allegations and one must wonder why Ms. Olson has chosen to remain silent until now instead of using her position as the county’s public defender to alert the community and outside judicial authorities to these reputed miscarriages of justice.”

For the full comment – see here.

Data provided from April 20, however, clearly shows that 25 percent of the incarcerated population in Yolo County is Black.  On that day, 49 of 194 people incarcerated were Black in a county where only a small overall percentage is.

Click here for the April 20 Jail Population data

In a statement to the Vanguard, Tracie Olson said, “Society will never be able to overcome racism if we can’t even admit it exists.”

She told ABC10 last week, “We see injustices in what’s supposed to be the justice system. We see violence in the name of the law. We see mass incarceration in the name of public safety…When we have discussions with them about what the police reports say versus what our clients tell us actually happened, we see firsthand and we hear firsthand what the differences are.”

In her comment to the Vanguard, “My office is looking forward to working with the stakeholders, the board, and the community to improve outcomes for our Black and Brown clients.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Matt Williams

    “Ms. Olson ignored the residency of those inmates from her data; verified black Yolo County residents only made up approximately 10% of the inmate population.”

    I have no axe to grind in this issue.  With that said, why is an inmate’s residency important/meaningful?

    What is important to me is (1) where the alleged crime took place, and (2) where the court of record is.  A Florida resident coming to Yolo County and committing a crime in Yolo County that results in a trial and verdict and sentencing in a Yolo County court is no different than a Yolo County resident committing a crime in Yolo County that results in a trial and verdict and sentencing in a Yolo County court.  If the DA believes they are different, I look forward to hearing his explanation why they are.

    1. Jeff Boone

      The data don’t lie, but we know that liars use data.

      Maybe we should ask Kamala Harris to chime in on this.

      And while we are talking about this, we should also talk about the education system’s disproportionate disciplining of black students.  Again, the data don’t lie.

      I think quote by MLK has been proven generally true (scientifically):

      Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.

      And based on this I can see where some might blame the cops for begetting violence.  And maybe we will see these neighborhoods with neutered law enforcement show positive results.  But black urban culture is already violent… very much so… and reflected in the pop culture.  It is frankly a counter culture… a non-mainstream culture.

      This is an interesting graph:  https://actrochester.org/children-youth/single-parent-families-by-race-ethnicity

      See how Rochester New York stands out will all the fatherless households for all racial groups?

      Rochester has a median household income of $33,400 per year.  The state of New York is $65,323.

      Crime in Rochester:

      In Rochester, the total number of daily crimes is 2.33 times more than the New York average and 1.61 times more than the national average. … For property crime, Rochester has a daily crime rate that is 2.35 times more than the New York average and 1.54 times more than the daily national average.

      You see this type of thing in all neighborhoods with a lot of crime.

      – Poor economic circumstances.

      – High rate of fatherless households

      – High rates of crime.

      Data don’t lie… we know the connection.

      But we allow the cops to be blamed.

      That is the liars using data.

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