By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications
On Jan. 15, retired California Men’s Colony (CMC) Warden Wayne Estelle passed away.
When Estelle began his career as a correctional officer at Folsom State Prison, Dwight Eisenhower was president and the Drifters crooned “There Goes My Baby” on the radio. It was 1959.
He came to CMC as a Captain on July 1, 1971. In 1972, he promoted to Program Administrator before transferring in 1975 to the Board of Prison Terms.
In 1982 he returned to CMC as a Deputy Superintendent and a little over a year later, on Dec. 2, 1983, he was appointed Warden of CMC, a position in which he remained until his retirement on Sept. 30, 1991.
In 1973, the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune interviewed then 40-year-old Estelle about the dangers of working in a prison.
“The potential for danger is always there and you’re aware of it. But, you don’t let it interfere with how you conduct your business. If you do, you better take another look at the job,” he said.
Estelle was about getting the job done.
“(Good prison administration) all begins with the guard in the block, or the over-promoted guard in the warden’s chair, like me,” Warden Estelle told a reporter in 1986.
In 2009, Estelle recalled the original mission of CMC.
“CMC West was purchased by a long term lease from the state National Guard. The existing buildings were the hospital section for Camp San Luis Obispo. The morgue room was left intact for years after. The dorms were connected by ramps for wheelchair access,” he wrote. “One of the original missions of West Facility was to serve older and geriatric prisoners of the Department. Those inmates often had wheel chair races up and down the ramps. Long term lifers who had ‘time on their hands’ planted and maintained immaculate grounds and gardens. Many of the original plantings were California natives from Hearst Castle.”
At Warden Estelle’s request, his family is honoring his wishes that there be no funeral services.