Prison System: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Status: Active, opened in 1988
Offender Gender: Male
Security Level: Maximum
Distinguishing Feature: Corcoran differs from some other high-security facilities because it actually contains a number of different facilities at the same prison location. It houses Level I, III, and IV inmates, and also contains special housing units designated for protective housing and security housing as well as an administrative segregation unit. Corcoran has a reputation as one of the most violent prisons in California; not only have prisoners killed a number of guards at Corcoran, but the violence flows both ways; prisoners at Corcoran have long-complained of guard brutality.
Number of Inmates: 4,151
Percent Capacity: 133.2%
Corcoran is associated with violence. Not only does it house some of California’s most violent offenders, but historically brutal relations between guards and inmates have helped create a tense and violent atmosphere that prison officials struggle to control and contain. As a result, prisoners who are assigned to special, more-restrictive housing, tend to be the best-behaved prisoners at Corcoran because of their fears that any misbehavior will result in a transfer to a less secure ward.
The living conditions at Corcoran vary wildly depending on an inmate’s classification level. In Level I general population, the inmates live in dormitories, have access to a dining hall, recreation facilities, library, chapel, and visiting room. Most Level I inmates have a permanent prison job. Level III general population inmates have fewer freedoms and fewer recreational opportunities; they may be confined to cells, rather than living in a dormitory. Moreover, prison overcrowding has resulted in the conversion of their gymnasium into a dormitory for additional inmates. Level IV general population inmates might be enrolled in special prison programs aimed at rehabilitation and at making them more successful while in a prison setting. These programs include the Disability Placement Program (DPP), the Developmentally Disabled Program (DDP), and the Mental Health Services Delivery System (MHSDS). The Administrative Segregation Unit is for inmates who are disciplinary problems. Administrative segregation inmates may share a cell with a roommate, and have access to showers and exercise yards. The security housing unit is designed for inmates who pose a danger to others. These can include identified member of prison gangs. The security housing unit also contains a Handicap SHU unit specifically for high-risk inmates. Protective Housing, on the other hand, is for inmates who are at particular risk from other inmates. These inmates may be part of the DDP or DPP programs or may be gang members who are trying to leave their gangs.
Corcoran is notorious for being an extremely violent facility. The guards are notorious for cracking down on any perceived infractions by inmates, perhaps because assaults on guards and other inmates are not uncommon. Guards frequently find contraband including drugs and weapons in the prison, which increases the risks to guards and inmates. The presence of a number of prison gang members, even in the SHU units, increases the risk of violence between groups of inmates, who may be segregated during recreation or living assignments, but may still have opportunities to interact during vocational assignments or while receiving services from the prison. Guards have been known to shoot inmates, and while they have had more fatalities, per year, than other prisons in the United States, what is really alarming is the number of inmates who have received non-fatal injuries. However, at least one prison guard has suggested that the perceived guard brutality is actually because Corcoran’s population is more violent, as a whole, than the population one might find at other prisons, which requires guards to use more violence against them.
Corcoran offers the expected rehabilitation and self-help programs including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, various veterans groups, and various self-help groups. Prisoners with identified special needs may qualify for services from the PPD, the PDD, or the MHDS. Currently, the education program is underfunded, with no funds available for college education for prisoners.
Corcoran has a Prison Industry Authority (PIA) program that is aimed at decreasing recidivism by better preparing inmates for life outside of a correctional institution. The PIA teaches job skills to prisoners, and upmarkets its products to other California state agencies. At the PIA, prisoners can actually work in a business-like setting, acquiring necessary job skills and business experience. These businesses include: manufacturing, laundry, agribusiness, industrial maintenance and repair, administrative assistance, and warehouse/freight distribution.
Corcoran’s agribusiness functions also provides food for the state’s prison center. The prison farm provides produce and dairy products to a number of state institutions.
Corcoran opened in 1988, and the acute care hospital was opened in 1993. Designed as a facility that could handle high-needs prisoners, Corcoran quickly became synonymous with dangerous prison conditions. In a 1999 lawsuit, a prisoner who had assaulted and raped his cellmate testified that prison guards not only knew of his propensity for sexual assault, but actually set up the attack on his cellmate. Officers at Corcoran were known for being violent with inmates and have been accused of running a “gladiator school” that pits inmates against one another, as well as being known for shooting more inmates than the guards at other prison in the country. A number of inmate deaths resulted from those shootings, which also resulted in a number of serious injuries. These allegations have resulted in FBI investigations of the prison and in private prison brutality lawsuits brought by the impacted inmates.
Corcoran is home to a number of high-profile inmates including: Charles Manson, Juan Corona, Phillip Garrido, Rodney Alcala, and Charles Andrew Williams.
Year Built or Opened: 1988 Warden or Supervisor: David Davey Daily Inmate Count: 4,151 Security Level(s): Maximum
Inmate Name and Inmate CDCR Number
P.O. Box 8800
Corcoran, CA 93212-8309
4001 King Avenue
Corcoran, CA 93212