CDCR Time Capsule

1991: Wasco State Prison and Reception Center opens doors

Prison warden stands beside a scale model of Wasco State Prison.
Acting Warden Mike Carillo is ready for the challenges of running the state’s first all-new reception center and prison. (Originally published February 1991.)

In 1991, Wasco State Prison and Reception Center received its first incarcerated residents. In honor of the institution’s three decades of service, Inside CDCR is republishing the original “Correction News” article from February 1991 as it was originally written.

Feb. 1, 1991, marked the opening of the department’s first all-new reception center and prison at Wasco. Inmates arrived by bus to begin occupying the 2,484-bed facility.

The 1,784-bed reception center will provide short-term housing for inmates while they are processed, classified and evaluated to determine their security level and institutional placement.

The prison also includes a 500-bed Level III facility for general population inmates who will maintain the reception center and a 200-bed Level I facility whose inmates will be assigned to community work crews.

Initially, incoming inmates will occupy only the Level I and III areas of the facility. The reception center is scheduled to open in June.

Before the inmates arrived, the prison hosted three open houses. On Jan. 26, the general public was invited. The local community has strongly supported the project and officials felt this was a unique chance for them to see what their tax money paid for.

Acting Warden Mike Carillo said, “It was a team effort. I’m extremely pleased with the assignment. This is a chance to apply what I’ve learned over the years.”

Law enforcement officials were given private tours of the facility on Jan. 25.

On Jan. 12, the facility opened its doors to a group of problem youths in the area. The invited students came from continuation schools, opportunity classes in high school or were identified by the local sheriff’s department as being involved in gangs or drugs.

Of the 50 youths that had been invited, seven or eight missed the bus from town. They were so eager to see the prison, they walked the intervening three miles. The tour was given by officials from the state corrections department, school districts and representatives from the sheriff’s office.

“The youths were full of questions,” said Alf Christianson, Community Resources Manager. “Several of them even asked how to become a Correctional Officer, and if you can become one if you have a juvenile record.”

Story April Cleland, Correction News Reporter.