With the opening of California Men’s Colony East Facility in 1961, everyday life at the prison was about to change. The relationship between inmate and custody staff was unique to CMC, with inmates holding the keys to their cells. Part of the culture difference at CMC could be attributed to its staff and lower-level inmates. While a prison has walls, guard towers, yards, gates and bars, the real stories of a prison are best told by those who put on a uniform or those serving time.
In 1954, the state needed a place for older and infirm inmates so they selected a vacant World War II National Guard hospital and camp in San Luis Obispo. The camp’s roots originally date back to 1928 when it was established as a military training camp. The repurposed facility was dubbed the California Men’s Colony.
The woman credited with creating the state parole system in 1893 was tasked with helping oversee the system nearly 20 years later.
The men and women tasked with supervising parolees have never had it easy. In the early days, before paved roads and automobiles were common, parolees sometimes reported to the parole officer by mail. With only two prisons operating – San Quentin and Folsom – parolees reported to the new parole office in the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
Rather than serving out their time until release, convicted criminals were given a reason to be on their best behavior with the passage of the 1893 parole law. The new law marked a turning point for the state correctional system.
The California Medical Facility (CMF) in Vacaville has a history stretching back to southern California and a former federal prison which once housed Al Capone. When it activated in 1955, the facility became the first prison hospital in the nation.
Inmates being trained as firefighters at Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) can trace the program’s roots to 1915 and state’s efforts to construct reliable roadways in mountainous areas.
Inmates who are being trained in aircraft engine repair at Deuel Vocational Institution can trace the program’s roots back to a World War II-surplus air field in Southern California.
Since 1983, thousands of correctional officer cadets have made their way through the academy at the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center in Galt. But originally, the school trained priests.
The Correctional Training Facility at Soledad can be found in the fertile Salinas Valley. Built in 1946 to help with overcrowding at San Quentin State Prison, the facility was originally dubbed Soledad State Prison. It was renamed CTF in the late 1960s.