Story by Lt. Michael Ramirez, AA/PIO
Photos by Octavio Banaga, TV Specialist, and archives
Centinela State Prison

On Oct. 30, Centinela State Prison (CEN) opened its doors to the public for a celebration of its 25-year anniversary. Employees, their families and friends along with retired employees and dignitaries were invited to attend the event, organized and funded by the Centinela Employee Activities Committee.

The CEN Honor Guard posted colors and Warden Raymond Madden welcomed the visitors with opening remarks. There was also a special recognition for staff who celebrated 25 years working at the prison.

Warden Madden noted that since the prison was opened, over $500,000 dollars has been donated through inmate food sales and 2,500 bicycles were given to under-privileged children.

Father Marcos Lopez, CEN Catholic Chaplain, provided the invocation and a moment of silence was taken in honor of all CEN employees who have passed away over the years.

Past and present employees and their families enjoyed music and food and were offered a tour of the prison.  The event also included other fun activities for the kids to enjoy.


The 25th year of operations is a significant milestone in a prison’s history.  It represents the career span of many who started their careers at Centinela State Prison. The initial activation wave consisted of 125 correctional officers who were sent straight from the Academy. Their numbers quickly grew with lateral transfers, consisting of seasoned veterans, and additional waves of Academy officers who were in-filling the lines as buildings and facilities were activated. The prison’s ranks for non-custody staff and medical staff grew quickly as well during this time. Today, Centinela employs 753 custody staff, 188 medical staff, and 301 non-custody staff.


The institution was originally referred to as California State Prison-Imperial South but the Imperial County Board of Supervisors renamed the prison Centinela after Mount Signal (Centinela), a prominent landmark near the prison.

Centinela received its first inmate on Oct. 1, 1993. Its current population is 3,042 inmates.  At one point, Centinela housed more than 5,000 inmates, over double its design capacity.