Whole Lotta Prisons Goin’ On

Freshman GOP Assemblyman Danny Gilmore knows prisons. The retired California Highway Patrol assistant chief should. Seven of the state’s 33 prisons are located in the 30th District. That’s 21 percent of California’s prisons, for those keeping score at home.

The district – 6.3 percent of southern Fresno, all of Kings, 11 percent of western Tulare and 31 percent of northern Kern counties – is home to Avenal State Prison, Wasco State Prison, Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga, California State Prison and California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility/State Prison in Corcoran and the Kern Valley State Prison and North Kern State Prison, both in Delano.

That doesn’t even count the three private prisons – two near McFarland and one near Shafter – says Valory Mitchell, Gilmore’s chief of staff.

The U.S. Naval Air Station in Lemoore, Kings County, employs 8,300.  The seven prisons, three of which are in Kings County, employ 11,068 guards, support staff and medical professionals. Operating budgets for the seven total $1.4 billion, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 

And, unlike other sectors of the state’s economy, business remains brisk: There are 40,598 inmates shoehorned into space designed for 19,806.






  1. Every time I hear one of the pro prison lobbyists explain how Three Strikes works so well and did not fill our prisons, I have to look back at all the prisons built after Three Strikes was enacted. Of them 4 of the 7 listed in this article were built after Three Strikes. There are 42,000 strikers 2nd and 3rd. Serving double time or life. More inmates than all these prisons combined presently hold. Then wonder what if we had not passed prop 36 that diverted 40,000 offenders away from prison and into rehabilitation programs. Had it not passed our prisons would hold 210,000 inmates in prisons designed to hold 83,000. Three Strikes works alright. It works to jam our prisons! America the land of the free!

    Comment by Frank Courser — 3.11.2009 @ 6:20 am

  2. Well said Frank! I will juat add to that in saying that if 3-strikes was the deterrent that supporters thought it was, our prisons would be emptying out b/c people would be scared into doing the right thing. Instead, we have a “brisK” economy in the prison industry as described above and the highest recidvism rate in the country. Anyway, this was an interesting blog! I was in shock driving from LA to SF this past weekend when I was counting the prisons, but guess I missed some!

    Comment by Rachel — 3.11.2009 @ 6:37 am

  3. What’s to care about three-strikes being a deterrent?

    If someone is so stupid or anti-social to get themselves into the position that if they do one more bad thing it means they are put away for a lifetime, what’s the problem?

    I don’t want them near my family…

    I wouldn’t mind corrections changing its policies to be more geared toward rehabilitation that incarceration, but c’mon.

    After two times in the pokie, you should figure it out that the place ain’t fun.

    Life is hard. We don’t need to spend all our time and money coddling those who ain’t smart enough to figure out how to get along and play nice with others.

    Comment by NoOneInParticular — 3.11.2009 @ 7:42 am

  4. I do care about Three Strikes being a deterrent! Over 4,000 men and women are serving life sentences for petty non-violent crimes. The cost to me the taxpayer is over a billion dollars each year, in fact for the cost of incarceration for one year these same people to go to a major university and get a degree! It should be known that two or three strikes can come out of one case. So a person who has never been to prison before can earn a life sentence! And juvenile arrest can be used decades later to earn a life sentence. And we don’t coddle these inmates at all; in fact we do nothing for them. California sentenced 690 people to 25 years to life or more for just simple drug possession, yet these inmates can not enter a drug program until two years before they are released. Only a fraction of all inmates will receive any kind of rehabilitation in prison. And the truth is 95% are coming home like it or not! And they will in your neighborhood. Do you want them to have an education, job training and employable skills or just go back to what they did that sent them to prison in the first place! We can be smart on crime or dumb? I think it’s time we rethink what we are doing!

    Comment by Frank Courser — 4.29.2009 @ 11:58 am

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