Calipatria State Prison Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

By Frances Hernandez, Use of Force Coordinator/AGPA, Calipatria State Prison

Twenty years ago, Calipatria State Prison (CAL) received its first inmate.  Several of the original activating staff assigned to CAL remains employed there.

 “I was a Correctional Officer in 1991 and was part of the activation team when CAL opened.  I was fortunate enough to return 17 years later as the Warden,” said Leland McEwen.  “This has provided me a unique perspective of the growth of the Imperial Valley and how we have played a part in this growth. Now we are very much a part of this community. Deacons and elders at places of worship, school board members, local high school coaches and local school activities are part of this institution.”

CAL is affectionately known as “the lowest down” prison in the Western Hemisphere because its location is 184 feet below sea level.

CAL houses about 4,300 inmates and has the lowest General Population Level IV recidivism rate in California.  Although located in a remote area of Southern California, 85 percent of CAL’s 1,200 staff members are longtime residents of Imperial County, promoting a familial feeling throughout the community.  

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