CDCR Time Capsule, Rehabilitation

1961: Brochure highlights Folsom prison’s rehabilitation efforts

Overview photo of Folsom Prison's buildings and walls.
An aerial view of Folsom Prison, circa 1960.

By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Created by the Graphic Arts Vocational Program at Folsom State Prison, a 1961 brochure gave visitors a glimpse at the history, programs and activities of the state’s second oldest penitentiary. Many of the stated goals at the time mirror the renewed rehabilitation efforts of today. As part of our CDCR Time Capsule series, the original brochure’s text and some photos are republished here, only edited for length or clarity.

Folsom’s educational program stresses vocational training

Vintage cover of prison brochure.
The cover of Folsom Prison’s 1961 brochure.

Approximately 40 percent of the inmate population is voluntarily enrolled in some phase of the formal education program. This program is separated into three classifications: Academic, Vocational, and Correspondence Courses.

The academic and vocational programs strive to meet four major objectives:

  1. To prepare each inmate to compete successfully as a wage-earning member of society.
  2. To provide the vehicles whereby graduation from elementary and secondary school may be earned.
  3. To prepare the inmate for constructive use of his leisure time through outdoor interests, hobbies, reading, artistic and musical appreciation.
  4. To develop a better understanding of government and its functions as well as more positive attitudes toward the responsibilities and privileges of citizens in democratic society.

Vocational training

The program continues to be the key feature of institutional education. Nine trade training courses are offered at present. These include auto body and fender repair, baking, electronics, general metals, machine shop, painting, printing, sheet metal and meat cutting.

Correspondence and visiting

With a view to preventing a further severance of social ties, correspondence and visits with family members and friends of long standing are encouraged. The new outdoor visiting room is used during the summer months. Security factors require these activities be carefully supervised.

Inmate Advisory Committee

The committee, consisting of inmates elected from various working areas by their fellow workers, serves in an advisory capacity only and has no administrative duties. The committee meets weekly to discuss the many problems inherent to a prison community; once each month its executive committee meets with the warden and selected staff members to discuss recommendations made by the full committee. The (council) has proven itself most valuable by focusing attention on problems before they become serious, and by making many worthwhile corrective suggestions.

Library

As one of the most active units in the prison community, the 28,000-volume open shelf library is patronized by over 50% of the inmate population; the circulation of books and magazines approximates 10,000 units monthly. Up to six books may be checked out at one time for a period not to exceed two weeks; reference books and periodicals are available for use in the library. Many hundreds of books are received and welcomed as gifts from county libraries and individual donors.

Group counseling

Although a new technique in the treatment program, this activity, conducted by trained lay-personnel, appears to be one of the best devices whereby an inmate may work directly on the problems which resulted in his imprisonment. At the present time, about 116 groups, totaling about 1,400 inmates, are being conducted weekly at Folsom. About 150 more inmates have applied for this activity and are on the waiting lists.

Canteen

A store is operated to allow inmates to make purchases not to exceed $20 per month for (items) not otherwise provided by the state.

Medical

In view of the age group of the Folsom inmates, a well-developed medical program is essential. A 75-bed hospital equipped with X-ray and surgical facilities, and staffed by two full-time doctors, three full-time dentists, and a psychiatrist serve the medical needs of the inmates. During the past year, 1,303 patients were admitted, 1,412 major and minor operations were performed and over 59,540 contacts (hospital and dental combined) were made on the daily sick line.

The recreation yard at Folsom prison shows fences and buildings.
Folsom Prison recreational yard, circa 1960.

Recreation

It is felt that an opportunity for wholesome recreation is necessary for a well-adjusted life. The program at Folsom is designed to provide such an outlet and, also, to develop a pattern for positive recreational activities after release.

Baseball is a major sport in Folsom. Prison teams compete in hardball, softball and basketball, with local area teams. Each year approximately 75 separate outside teams are hosted by the institution, providing not only active but spectator participation for about 1,500 inmates each week.

Quiet games such as checkers, chess, dominoes and patent table games are also available. Playing cards are contraband.

Industries

The industries program was established to provide constructive and diversified work programs for inmates, with the development of good work habits and occupational skills a prime directive.

The primary divisions are metal stamping, metal fabrication, furniture refurbishing, cannery, engineering section, tool and die, dairy, warehousing and industries maintenance.

The metal stamping factory makes all of California’s many varieties of motor vehicle license plates, as well as street name signs and highway barriers. During one year’s run, the factory used 43,000 gallons of paint and 3,600 tons of steel in producing 16 million license plates. Every car, truck, motorcycle and motorscooter in California carries with it a little bit of Folsom.

Large stamping machines in a warehouse-like structure.
Folsom Prison metal stamping factory, circa 1960.

By the numbers in 1961

  • Current inmate count total: 3,400
  • Within walled enclosure: 2,670
  • Camp Represa dormitory: 514
  • Employee total: 492
  • Custody: 323
  • Others: 169
  • Size total: 1,000 acres
  • Walled enclosure: 40 acres
  • Number of cells: 1,700
  • Hospital capacity: 110
  • Dormitory capacity: 216
  • Employee families on grounds: 93
  • Total employees and families on grounds: 400

History of Folsom State Prison

The decision to construct a branch prison in California to relieve serious overcrowding at San Quentin was made by the Legislature in 1858. However, Folsom was not selected as the site until 1868 and construction of the prison did not begin until 1878. At that time, this was considered an ideal location for a prison; it offered an unlimited amount of native stone for the construction of the buildings and walls; also, ample water was available from the American River which formed one natural boundary.

The original capacity of Folsom consisted of 168 cells. The first group of male prisoners was received on July 12, 1880, by transfer from San Quentin. The first female prisoner was received on Nov. 7, 1885, although only six women have ever been incarcerated in Folsom and none since 1929. An additional block of 200 cells was completed in 1886.

A total of 93 executions have been carried out in Folsom Prison, all by hanging. The first execution took place on Dec. 13, 1894, the last on Dec. 12, 1937.

Construction on the Chapel was completed in 1903. The walls of hand-cut blue granite which now surround the prison were brought to their final stage of completion in 1923.

The first school was inaugurated in Folsom in 1912. … The first Folsom Road Camp was established in 1916. It is interesting to note that the existing road leading to Kings Canyon in the Sequoia National Forest was one of the projects completed by prison labor. In 1923, inmates started receiving compensation for their work on projects of this type.