Merced County Report Overview

Merced County has adopted overly aggressive policing and prosecution strategies that are entangling far too many Black and Latino men and women in the criminal justice system, while doing little to make the community safer. The city and county are failing to follow best practices for reducing incarceration, improving police community relationships and preventing violence.


This LIVE FREE County Best Practices Scorecard provides a snapshot of the policies and practices that are decimating Merced’s communities of color through overcharging young Black and Latino men and women, setting bail that average community members cannot afford, creating dangerous and often times deadly conditions in county jails and refusing to hold law enforcement officers accountable for police misconduct and murder. The truth is that there’s a Ferguson right here in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Download the complete scorecard to see the results.


Blacks in Merced are almost 4 times more likely to be in jail than the general population. The percent of Latinos in jail in the county has been increasing faster than Latino population growth and Latinos in low-income communities in Downtown, Southeast and Southwest Merced are subjected to aggressive policing and law enforcement. The County’s District Attorney and Sheriff, and Merced’s Police Chief are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of all people in the county. But they have pursued policies that effectively criminalize Black and Latino communities. Download a complete summary of Merced’s failing policies.


Mass incarceration may be a national issue, but solving it requires sustained local action in Merced. The good news is that there are tested research-based policies that other counties in California and across the nation have adopted that have succeeded in reducing the number of people of color in jail and under the supervision of the criminal justice system, while making communities safer and refocusing public resources on education, training, drug treatment and violence prevention. There are a host of strategies that Merced could adopt to divert people out of the jail system. Download the full report and jump to page 13 for a policy guide of best practices.