Image: falseStatement: “About 20 to 30 percent of the people in our state prisons today are from another country besides America. They’re in this country illegally,” Jay LaSuer, one of three candidates campaigning for Sheriff, said during a televised forum on KUSI.

Determination: False

Analysis: It’s not entirely clear how many people being held in California’s state prison system at any given time are in the country unlawfully since the inmate population changes daily and a review of some inmate’s immigration status or citizenship may be under review.

However, even a broad estimate of the illegal immigrant population in state prisons falls far below 20 to 30 percent, according to state corrections data.

At the end of last year, for example, the total inmate population was 168,830 people. Law enforcement officials had confirmed that 18,100 of those inmates were in the country illegally and another 4,000 inmates were being reviewed. Even assuming that all 22,100 of those inmates were in the country illegally, that’s just 13 percent of the state prison population.

On Thursday, LaSuer said he found the statistic online in a news story a couple years ago but could not find his records of it. A quick Google search did turn up similar estimates, but they didn’t provide documentation or cite correction officials.

Also from our Google Search: The most current, accurate numbers were reported in January by the Sacramento Bee.

We’re calling LaSuer’s statement false, because it likely exaggerates the current number of state prison inmates who may be in the country unlawfully.

A hat tip on this Fact Check also goes to Wendy Fry, who works for our media partner NBC 7/39, suggested the analysis and did much of the grunt work for us.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

You can also e-mail new Fact Check suggestions to What claim should we explore next?


Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

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