California has a different approach to preventing violence in jail than
most other states. Most California county jails separate inmates by
race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The reasoning is that because
these three issues are major contributors to jail house violence that
by separating the inmates there will be less violent confrontations.
Of course, this is only possible in larger jails since they need to be
able to manage these different inmate populations. You are more likely
to find this sort of segregation in Los Angeles County Jail, for
example, than in Sonoma County Jail.
County jails in California (and across the nation) shouldn't be
confused with prisons. Jails are usually run by the county or city
while prisons are usually run by the state or federal government.
County jails tend to house inmates that are doing less than a year and
have been charged with misdemeanors whereas prisons tend to house
inmates who are doing multi-year stints (sometimes even life) and have
been convicted of much more serious felonies.
Many jails in California are dealing with serious overcrowding issues.
As an officer in the jail this presents a lot of problems such as
increased inmate violence. It creates opportunities for the inmates,
however, who tend to serve shorter sentences than they would otherwise.
In LA County Jail, for instance, inmates report that they generally
serve about 10% of their sentence because of the overcrowding issues
(note that they still spend quite a bit of time on probation).