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Who is in Jail in San Diego? A Look at Notable Inmates

San Diego County has one of the largest jail systems in California, with around 5,500 inmates across 7 detention facilities. While many inmates are serving short sentences or awaiting trial for minor offenses, San Diego jails also hold some of the region’s most notorious and dangerous criminals.

Background on San Diego Jails and Inmate Population

The San Diego Sheriff’s Department manages jails in the county and houses inmates from local police agencies as well as those sentenced to serve time. The largest jail facility is the San Diego Central Jail, located in downtown San Diego. This maximum security lockup houses over 2,000 male and female inmates.

Other major detention centers include the George Bailey Detention Facility, the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility for women, and the Vista Detention Facility. Overall, around 90% of inmates in San Diego jails are male.

The majority of inmates in San Diego jails are awaiting trial or serving short county jail sentences. However, the facilities also hold state prisoners, many with lengthy sentences who will eventually transfer to state prisons. As of 2023, around 4,500 convicted felons sentenced to multi-year prison terms were housed in San Diego jails.

Here is an overview of the San Diego jail population as of September 2023:

Inmate TypeNumber
Awaiting Trial2,150
Serving County Sentence1,650
Awaiting Transfer to State Prison1,250
Other (Federal, ICE, etc.)450
Total Population5,500

While San Diego jails mostly contain low-level offenders, a number of convicted murders, rapists, gang members and other violent criminals also reside in these facilities, some with life sentences.

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Notorious and High-Profile Inmates

San Diego jails contain inmates convicted of notorious and high-profile crimes that drew significant media coverage and public interest. Many of these criminals were convicted of brutal murders, rape or multiple felonies and are serving lengthy sentences measured in decades or life.

Here is an overview of some of the most infamous current inmates in San Diego detention facilities.

David Raya

Current Facility: George Bailey Detention Facility

Convictions: Murder, attempted murder. Killed a San Diego police officer in 2016.

Sentence: Death

David Raya is a convicted cop killer on death row for the 2016 murder of San Diego Police Officer Jonathan “J.D.” De Guzman. On the night of July 28, 2016, Raya shot and killed Officer De Guzman and seriously wounded his partner Wade Irwin during a stop. Raya was sentenced to death in November 2018 and is currently awaiting execution, which has been delayed indefinitely due to California’s moratorium on capital punishment.

Cleophus Prince Jr.

Current Facility: Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility

Convictions: Serial rape-murders, burglary. Killed 6 women in San Diego in 1990.

Sentence: 195 years to life

Cleophus Prince Jr. is a notorious serial killer known as “The Clairemont Killer” for the San Diego neighborhood where he committed his crimes. In 1990, Prince raped and fatally stabbed six women in their homes during a nine-month span. He was sentenced to 195 years to life after DNA evidence tied him to the murders. Prince continues to serve his life sentence in state prison after spending time in San Diego jails following his conviction.

Kristin Rossum

Current Facility: Central California Women’s Facility

Conviction: First-degree murder of husband in 2000 by poison.

Sentence: Life without parole

Kristin Rossum was a county toxicologist who was convicted of murdering her husband Gregory de Villers in 1999 by poisoning him with fentanyl. Rossum was having an affair and killed her husband to collect on his $500,000 life insurance policies. Her attempt to stage his death as a suicide failed when authorities found evidence she poisoned him. Rossum is serving a life sentence but spent over a year in Las Colinas Detention Facility before her transfer to state prison.

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Notable Questions Around San Diego Jail Population and Operations

San Diego jails regularly face questions and scrutiny around inmate rights, facility conditions, gang activity, contraband smuggling, and other issues. Here are some notable questions that have arisen about San Diego inmate populations and jail operations:

Are San Diego Jails Overcrowded?

San Diego jails have faced chronic overcrowding issues for decades, typically operating near or above maximum capacity. However, in recent years enhanced diversion programs and jail population management have reduced overcrowding. While still crowded, most facilities now comply with court-ordered population caps imposed to protect inmate safety and rights.

How Prevalent are Gangs Among Inmates?

Gang affiliation is relatively common among inmates, with authorities estimating around 30-40% of the jail population having current or past gang ties. San Diego is home to large numbers of Hispanic gangs like the Mexican Mafia, Border Brothers and Logan Heights. White, Black, Asian and other race-based gangs are also present but smaller in number.

What is the Level of Violence Among Inmates?

Assaults and violence occur frequently in San Diego jails due to the concentration of violent offenders, gang activity and contraband weapons. However, most incidents are relatively minor with serious assaults declining in recent years due to facility upgrades. Inmate homicides are very rare, with most facilities having few or no murders over the past decade.

How Prevalent is Drug Smuggling Into Facilities?

Smuggling of illicit drugs like meth, heroin and fentanyl remains an issue in San Diego jails. Visitors and corrupt guards and staff are the main sources of contraband. Authorities employ extensive screening and monitoring tactics but have struggled to fully eliminate smuggling in busy jail facilities. The prevalence of drugs has contributed to multiple overdose deaths in recent years.

Quotes on Convictions of Notorious San Diego Inmates

The convictions of many notorious inmates currently in San Diego jails drew significant public reaction and statements from authorities, victims, families and others. Here are some notable quotes on the convictions of several infamous San Diego criminals:

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On Serial Killer Cleophus Prince Jr.:

“This conviction ensures he is held accountable for the brutal acts he committed against six innocent women. While it cannot bring them back, it brings closure to this horrific chapter.” – San Diego Police Chief Bob Burgreen in 1993

On Cop Killer David Raya:

“The defendant made a choice that day, the choice to commit murder, forever impacting lives of three families. Justice delayed is justice denied and today justice was swift.” – San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan in 2018

On Kristin Rossum, convicted of killing her husband:

“There were a lot of things done to try to make this look like a suicide, when in fact it wasn’t. It was murder, plain and simple.” – San Diego prosecutor Dan Goldstein in 2002

On inmates aligning with race-based prison gangs:

“Prison gangs pose the greatest threat to the safety and security of our jails. We are committed to targeting gang activity through suppression, intervention and enforcement.” – San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore in 2020

Conclusion and Analysis

While San Diego jails mostly hold lower-level offenders, they also contain some of the region’s most dangerous criminals who are serving lengthy sentences for notorious crimes. Serial killers, cop killers, murderers, rapists and other violent felons are unlikely to ever leave jail again except for court appearances or transfers between facilities.

The convictions of these infamous criminals brought a measure of justice and closure to victims and families impacted by their horrific crimes. However, problems persist in managing violent inmates and gang activity in crowded jail facilities. Smuggling of drugs and contraband weapons also remains an issue threatening safety and order. Moving forward, San Diego jail authorities will need to balance delivery of appropriate care and diversion programs for inmates, while also enhancing security to protect inmates, guards and the public.

Through extensive screening, population management, facility upgrades and other reforms, San Diego jails have improved safety and oversight in recent decades. However, the concentration of violent offenders with lengthy sentences will continue posing complex challenges in managing facilities with paramount priorities around safety, rehabilitation, and smooth eventual transition of eligible inmates back into society.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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