Obituaries, Unlocking History

‘Teena’ Farmon began with state in 1968

Farmon activated two female prisons

Spanning a correctional career of more than three decades, retired Warden Celestine ‘Teena’ Farmon passed away July 18, 2021.

Farmon began her correctional career as a clerk typist in 1968 with the Parole and Community Services Division. Previously she worked for Alcohol Beverage Control and the Internal Revenue Service.

She promoted through the ranks, participating in numerous special assignments, according to her son, retired Sergeant Darin Farmon.

“She was a black woman who accomplished so much, especially back then,” her son said.

In 1980, she was appointed Assistant Deputy Director of Labor Relations, negotiating the first labor agreement for prison employees, he said.

Overseeing construction of new prisons

She served the department as a prison construction manager. In 1983, she was appointed as an Associate Warden at Solano.

When the first new female prison was being planned in California, the state turned to Farmon. She served as the prison construction manager for the Northern California Women’s Facility at Stockton from 1984 until it opened. Then she was appointed as the facility’s first warden.

When Central California Women’s Facility opened in 1990, Farmon was appointed warden.

“We’re looking forward to being part of the community,” she told McClatchy News Service at the time. “I want this prison to stand out as the best in the nation.”

Warden Farmon pushed for gender-focused rehabilitation

Farmon was an early proponent of gender responsive rehabilitation, serving as president for the National Association for Programs for Female Offenders. She was also part of the California Commission on Women in Prison.

In 1992, at a Women and the Justice System symposium televised on CSPAN, Farmon said the correctional system is evolving to better serve the needs of incarcerated people. At the time, after new construction, there were 27 prisons in California.

“Issues for females incarcerated should be different just as we in society are recognizing issues for women are different. Corrections is a microcosm of the community,” Warden Farmon said. “The criminal justice system as a whole has not addressed the needs of the female offender. As we begin to talk about how to address those things today and in the future, it’s important to recognize that we’re going to have to bring a whole lot of systems along with us.”

She highlighted the lack of female wardens, saying there were only three in 1992.

After retirement, Warden Farmon continued making a difference

She retired in 2000, but that didn’t stop her from making a difference in her community. In 2008, she served as the Executive Director of the Elk Grove Police Activity League.

“If we are really going to make a difference (to prevent crime), we need to (reach) the children,” she told the Elk Grove Citizen.

In 2014, she served on the Board of Directors for the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children in Sacramento County.

Farmon is survived by her son, Darin, and two grandchildren.

By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor