By Bobbette Espinosa, AA/Public Information Officer
Kern Valley State Prison
Photos by Eric Owens, CDCR Staff Photographer
(Editor’s note: On July 1, 2005, the newly renamed and restructured California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation published the following article on the opening of Kern Valley State Prison in “Staff News.”)
The department formally activated California’s 33rd prison, Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP), Wednesday, June 15, with the arrival of the first Level I (minimum security) inmates and a media tour.
Designed as a Level IV (maximum security) institution, it will house about 5,000 inmates when it is fully activated in January 2006. The institution is also designed to be the first fully programmed Level IV institution in California with a variety of academic and vocational education programs, thereby increasing an offender’s chances of successfully reentering society.
“While California’s prison population has remained relatively stable over the last two years, there has been a significant increase in the number of maximum security inmates and in average time served,” said Roderick Q. Hickman, Secretary of Youth and Adult Correctional Agency (YACA). “This led to an increase in inmate violence and threats to staff and public safety.
“Prisons are designed to serve the public safety by keeping inmates in custody and preparing them for their eventual release. This new facility will ease the pressure and lower the risk to staff at the state’s other 10 maximum security prisons,” Hickman added
Kern Valley State Prison is designed to house about 500 minimum security (Level I) inmates and about 4,000 maximum security (Level IV) inmates.
A number of media from outlets in the central valley and southern California toured the facility the day inmates began to arrive.
Inmates housed at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) will be expected not to participate in gang activity. Non-gang behavior and expectations will be outlined in inmate orientation programs. The initial group of Maximum Security (Level IV) inmates will begin to arrive in July 2005 and will be housed on Facility B.
The institutions will activate by Facilities: The proposed schedule is to activate Facility B in July; Facility A is scheduled to be activated in September 2005; Facility C is scheduled to be activated in November 2005; Facility D is scheduled to be activated January 2006.
The prison is a Level IV, 180-degree design facility. Level IV facilities have a secure perimeter with internal and external armed coverage, with housing units consisting of cells adjacent to exterior walls. There is also a minimum support facility (MSF), which is located outside the secure perimeter and consists primarily of open dormitories with a low security perimeter.
Also located inside this perimeter are food services and some building maintenance.
When fully activated, the institution will have about 780 custody staff and 365 support staff.
The prison was initially estimated to cost $335.5 million, but the final cost for design and construction is $379 million. The project budget included $2 million for impacts on local school districts and $20 million for impacts on local governments.
Proposed names for the new institution were submitted by citizens in the Kern County area, with the final selection made by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.