Other stories, Rehabilitation

CDCR exits last out‑of‑state prison

Prisoners getting on bus while correctional officer watches.
Inmates line up to board bus to leave last CDCR out-of-state facility.

By CDCR Staff; photos by CDCR Video Unit Director Scott Sabicer

In a major step toward fulfilling a promise made by Governor Gavin Newsom in his inaugural address to reduce the state’s reliance on out-of-state and private prisons, the last group of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) inmates housed out of state on June 25 exited the remaining facility in Eloy, Arizona.

Inmates housed at the La Palma Correctional Center in Arizona have been returned to California and the contract with operator CoreCivic will not be renewed.

Bus driving through gate as several correctional officers watch.
The bus carrying inmates leaves CDCR’s last out-of-state facility.

“The use of out-of-state facilities was always meant to be a temporary solution to the significant prison overcrowding we experienced in the mid-2000s, and due to meaningful prison reforms, we have been able to bring our inmates back to California and closer to their families,” said CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz.

The Arizona facility was first activated in July 2008, and it housed Level II and Level III inmates.

In October 2006 at the height of prison overcrowding, California’s inmate population soared to 173,479 inmates with prisons operating at more than 200 percent design capacity. In response to this crisis, CDCR temporarily housed inmates out of state to help ease overcrowding while long-term solutions were being implemented.

CDCR contracted to house some inmates in six out-of-state facilities:

•           West Tennessee Detention Facility, TN (exited in March 2009)

•           North Lake Correctional Facility, MI (exited October 2011)

•           Red Rock Correctional Center, AZ (exited in October 2013)

•           North Fork Correctional Facility, OK (exited in November 2015)

•           Florence Correctional Facility, AZ (exited in Feb. 2016)

•           Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, MS (exited in July 2018) 

•           La Palma Correctional Facility, AZ (exited in June 2019)

The number of inmates housed out of state peaked in 2010 with more than 10,400 inmates.

In November 2006, plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit about prisoner medical care filed a motion to convene a three-judge panel and in 2010, California was ordered to reduce its in-state adult prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity. This order was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2011.

Since that time, many actions to reduce overcrowding have taken place, including the 2011 enactment of Public Safety Realignment, other legislative reforms and policy changes, increases in permanent health care treatment capacity, utilizing in-state contract bed capacity, focusing on inmate rehabilitation, beefing up academic and vocational education programs, establishing reentry facilities to prepare inmates before they complete their sentences, court-ordered parole consideration processes and expansion of credits, and ballot measures including Propositions 36, 47 and 57.

“This is a historic day for CDCR, as the department has ended its reliance on out-of-state facilities, thus ending an era that began 13 years ago at the height of California’s prison overcrowding crisis,” Secretary Diaz added.