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California State Prison, Represa ("Old Folsom")

    On January 13, 1999, the 1998-1999 Sacramento County Grand Jury toured California State Prison, Represa ("Old Folsom").

    Background

    The facility was built in 1878 along the American River, and received its first 44 prisoners from San Quentin Prison in 1880. The original cells had no heating or plumbing. Upon arrival, inmates were issued two candles per month for light, one uniform, and two pots -- one for water and one for waste. The facility was one of the nation's first maximum security prisons for men and until 1937 was the site of 93 executions by hanging. Since then, all executions by the State of California have been conducted at San Quentin.

    The facility, located on 882 acres within the City of Folsom, houses 3,850 male inmates. The following statistics, provided to the Grand Jury by prison officials, identify the demographics of the inmates:

    Folsom State Prison Statistics

    Race: 38% White, 29% Black, 27% Hispanic, 6% Other
    Offense: 45.9% Violence, 20.5% Property, 25.9% Drugs, 7.6% Other
    Classification: 18.7% Level I, 80.2% Level II, 0.1% Level III, 1.0% (Level IV, Unclassified)
    Avg. Reading Level: Eighth grade Median Age: 36 years

    The inmate living arrangements are based on a system of "levels." Levels are assigned by the Department of Corrections based on the type of crime committed and the past history of the inmate; inmates classified as Levels I and II (minimum security) have committed less violent offenses and are more cooperative. Level I and II inmates may live in dormitory- style housing referred to as the "camp." The Grand Jury was informed that approximately 350 inmates currently are housed in the camp; there are also former Level III and IV inmates who, through good behavior, have had their security classifications reduced to Levels I and II. By accomplishing this, they avoid being incarcerated at California State Prison, Sacramento ("New Folsom"). The facility currently houses 422 "lifers." Current annual operating costs exceed $56 million. There is a staff of approximately 800 employees; 450 correctional officers and 350 support personnel.

    The Prison Industry Authority operates three factories inside Old Folsom. The license plate factory sells from five to six million California vehicle license plates each year, serving the entire state. There is also a metal fabrication factory and a metal sign shop.

    Vocational and academic classes are offered to the inmates. Vocational training includes shoe repair, auto body and fender work, sign and decal manufacturing, building maintenance, mill and cabinetry, masonry, auto mechanics, printing, landscape and gardening, electronics and the expanding computer repair program. Work opportunities are in demand by inmates, who wait a year or more for enrollment. Academic classes include mathematics, writing, literature and the arts, social studies and science. Through these classes, inmates can earn General Education Development (GED) certificates.

    A shop located outside the prison gate and open to the public sells arts and crafts made by the inmates.

    Observations

    Prison officials are concerned with the age of the buildings at Old Folsom. These 120-year-old structures require constant maintenance. The Grand Jury was told by prison officials that the Department of Corrections believes maintenance of the existing structures is less expensive than building a new prison. Currently, the prison is undergoing an earthquake retrofitting program as required by the State of California. It is expected to take 3.5 years to retrofit Old Folsom structures at a cost of $11 million. The Grand Jury felt the facility was well-managed and -maintained despite its age.

    No Response is Required.

1998/99 Sacramento County Grand Jury - Final Report (Internet Version) June 30, 1999

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