Similar to other bigger states in the United States of America, California also has a reputation for having the worst prisons due to several reasons that range from gang violence to poor living conditions.
Prisons in California State are operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), which has seen a decline in its budget in 2022 from $15.8 billion to $13.3 billion. The budget cuts, of course, are not helping CDCR to do their job with more discipline and professionalism but instead adding to the difficulty of their operational capabilities.
What makes a prison worse in the State of California?
California prisons have a bad reputation in the entire United States due to the following reasons:
- Overcrowding: prisons are choked with inmates due to the non-availability of other state prisons.
- Departmental corruption: funds that are to be spent on inmate rehabilitation are rather used elsewhere, which adds no benefit to the rehabilitation of offenders, and rather makes their time worse.
- Lack of programs: since prisons in California are overcrowded, it makes it difficult for all inmates to go through their necessary and state-required education.
- Gang violence: there is not much control of CDCR, and gang violence in California prisons is rampant.
- Drugs: Prisoners are supposed to be free from drugs but California prisons have developed a reputation that they are filled with drugs, oftentimes leading to the deaths of inmates from overdosing.
- Unsanitary conditions: just like any other facility, a prison requires a rampant maintenance service for the inside conditions to remain safe & healthy, which unfortunately is something California prisons do not get.
What are the Top 7 prisons in the State of California:
The following are the Top 10 prisons in the State of California:
1. Pelican Bay State Prison:
Number 1 on our list is the Pelican Bay State Prison. The prison has an extremely bad reputation which over the past few years has improved due to multiple lawsuits filed by former inmates. However, the root cause appears to be still there.
The prison has a capacity of 2,380. After multiple overcrowding lawsuits, CDCR, for the first time since the facility's inception, reduced the number of inmates it could house. Due to this, currently, there are over 2,112 inmates. Since the prison is a supermax facility, it is famous for housing some of the most notorious American criminals, ultimately leading to their death.
In the early phases of the facility, guards were accused of beating inmates leading to their deaths, having them fight their enemies, not controlling the overuse of drugs, and letting prison gangs flourish who would beat the weak prisoners.
Things have changed after the 2013 prison hunger-strike but they are certainly not in their most ideal situation and perhaps might not be anytime soon.
2. San Quentin State Prison:
Located in the north of San Francisco, the prison is one of California's oldest and was opened during the gold rush era, bringing many criminals along to the State. It was opened in 1852, and the prison is filled with controversies, being 170 years old.
While the prison has been featured in numerous films, videos, podcasts, and TV shows, that still does not mean the conditions in prison are good. Despite offering numerous programs to its inmates, that still does not appear to be enough for their rehabilitation.
The prison is famous where guards treat the inmates brutally, access to basic necessities being denied, and overcrowding has been a major issue, among many others. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the prison saw 12 deaths of inmates within just two months. It has been reported that inmates, especially the older ones, were repeatedly denied access to much-needed medical care.
3. California Medical Facility:
Located in Vacaville, Solano County, California, the CMF is a male-only state medical prison. Its security class is divided into three levels level 1 is open dormitories, and level 3 is a closely guarded medical facility.
What makes this largest California prison medical facility so worse is that the prison is overcrowded, leading to many accidents and a lack of care for those who need it. This is also a reason why guards use an excess of force to exhibit dominance. Corruption has also been reported in this facility, leading to medicines and other care equipment not being given to the inmates who require it.
Many former inmates have reported the poor medical care they were given, and considering this is the best medical care a prisoner may get; it only makes matters worse.
4. Kern Valley State Prison:
Located in Delano, California, the prison is a maximum security facility that has been reported to be extremely overcrowded. According to 2020’s statistics, the prison is stretched to about 144.4% of its capacity.
Due to the overcrowding, several tragic incidents occur with guards having little to no control of the prison; gang violence is rampant. The inhuman housing of inmates has caused several to commit suicide while others suffer from health and mental issues.
Former inmates have reported how non-cooperative the guards have been, due to which inmates have to face violence, trauma, and abuse. If someone dares to put up an official complaint, he is to face repercussions.
5. California State Prison, Corcoran
The male-only facility is located in Kings County, California. It is a minimum to the maximum facility, which means it has facilities ranging from open dorms to closed cells.
Not only is the prison overcrowded, but it also houses a controversial Security Housing Unit (SHU) and has been reported to house inmates who the guards want to be there regardless if they have committed any crime or not. Conditions in SHU cells are some of the worst ones can imagine and cause serious trauma once you have served there.
6. California State Prison, Solano:
The California State Prison, Solano, while being a medium-level security prison, is filled with as many controversies as possible. Like other state prisons in California, Solano is also overcrowded beyond its feasible capacity.
Solano's problems are very similar to those faced by other overcrowded prisons in California, such as murders, gang violence, use of excessive force, and drug overdose. There is also a major hygiene problem in the prisons, due to which inmates are often denied access to basic facilities such as showers and education.
7. Folsom State Prison in California:
Folsom State Prison, a minimum to medium level security prison for both men and women, has been controversial since it was opened in 1880. The male part of Folsom State Prison is also overcrowded, and ever since its inception has been filled with violence in which guards of CDCR were also attacked.
On top of it, there have been numerous prison escapes; the last was in 2017. Due to this, the security in prison is extremely tight, and to exert dominance, guards in this prison are famous for using excessive force that they believe is the only way to bring law and order. In 2012, at least 10 inmates were brutally stabbed by other gang members, and 1 was shot dead.
Additionally, the prison is filled with cases of drug overdose and inadequate facilities for health, food, and medicine, which only adds to the agony of inmates.
Read about the Worst prisons in other states of the US:
- 11 Worst Prisons In The United States With High Crime Rate
- 9 Worst Prisons In The State of Delaware
- 9 Worst Prisons in The State of Arkansas
- 5 Worst Prisons In The State of Colorado
- 7 Worst Prisons In The State of North Carolina
- 7 Worst Prisons in The State of Pennsylvania
- 7 Worst Prisons in the State of Ohio
- 7 Worst Prisons in the State of New York