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).

California Jails