CDCR Time Capsule 1960: Rehabilitation built in to California Men’s Colony

(Editor’s note: The department’s biennial report dated 1959-1960 outlined the new facility coming online at California Men’s Colony. This document provides a snapshot of the institution in 1960 and its vision for the future. The governor at the time was Edmund G. Brown, father to current Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr.)

Twenty-four hundred inmates move into a new California prison facility in 1961 – one designed with security and rehabilitation features built in.

This is the new plant being completed at California Men’s Colony at Los Padres.

Called the East Facility, it stands beside the 1,336-inmate West Facility, an institution using the former hospital building at Camp San Luis Obispo.

The department’s biennial report, 1959-1960.

The East Facility will be for medium custody inmates rather than for minimum custody men as at the West Facility. While the average age at the West Facility was 53.7 as of Dec. 30, 1960, the age group will be from 25 to 45 at East.

Many unique features have been incorporated in the physical plant for the new permanent institution. For example, it is built in keeping with the theory that 600-man units are better for control and for treatment.

Separate living areas

The design provides for four quadrangular areas completely separated from each other, each housing 600. Two 300-man buildings with a large athletic field, dining room, elementary school and group counseling rooms are provided at each quadrangle.

Each 600-man unit, too, will have its own combined custody-treatment staff with a program administrator in charge.

Individualized treatment and rapport between inmates and staff will be more possible in this small community setting. And it will be possible to separate many different groups from one another for treatment purposes. Such segregation may be provided for groups as small as 50 or as large as 600.

Early in 1961, an intensive training program will be established for new employees scheduled at the East Facility.

Help older offenders

At the West Facility, meanwhile, staffers will continue with their task of helping older offenders to prepare for another try at adjustment to society.

During the past two years, group counseling has been expanded. There are special study groups for alcoholic offenders, narcotics users and sex offenders. Encouraging results are reported on the parole success of former group members.

A therapeutic living community has been inaugurated in two buildings for men scheduled for release within three months. A variety of staff members work with them trying to better prepare them for the impact of outside living.

Los Padres also offers a broad range of academic classes, a vocational program, a work program and extensive leisure time activities.

Plan activity center

During 1961 an inmate activity building large enough to seat most of the 1,350 population will be erected in the West Facility to serve as an auditorium and gymnasium.

CMC East Facility sign describing the first phase of construction, circa 1959-1960.

At the West Facility, 110 men are employed in a tobacco processing plant where pipe, cigarette chewing tobacco are packaged and sold to State and local tax supported institutions in California. The East Facility will have a shoe factory, a knitting mill and a plastic fabrication plant as part of Correctional Industries. (Editor’s note: Today, this is known as the California Prison Industry Authority, or CALPIA. Tobacco is no longer processed at prisons and has been considered contraband since it was banned in 2005.)

An average of 52 inmates are employed on on work details furnished by the military department at Camp San Luis Obispo, where they cut weeds and generally keep the grounds and buildings in condition.

Although the Men’s Colony does not have any conservation camps assigned to it, it furnishes emergency fire crews. During 1960 alone, these men spent about 25,000 man hours on nine fires.

Many are ailing

As might be expected, many serious ailments, both acute and chronic, are found among the elderly group. Three wards, one for surgical cases, a second for acutely ill patients and a third for chronically ill men, provide a total of 114 hospital beds.

During 1959 and 1960, there were 168 major and 1,115 minor operations performed. A group of medical specialists from the nearby community serve as consultants regularly. Patients needing surgery or other treatment not possible at Los Padres are transferred to San Quentin.

More than 250 are on special diets served in a special dining room.

The religious program is tailored to the more than ordinary interest manifested by the group of older men at the Men’s Colony.

Read more on CMC’s history, http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2016/07/unlocking-history-california-mens-colony-was-once-wwii-military-hospital-part-1/

CMC East construction, circa 1959-1960.

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1 Response

  1. J.L. Bernard Thursday, March 16, 2017 / 8:48 am

    Love these time capsule pieces. Keep them coming and great work!

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