News Releases

California Activates Kern Valley State Prison, Receives First Inmates on June 15

DELANO – The California Department of Corrections (CDC) will formally activate California’s 33rd prison, Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP), on Wednesday, June 15, with the arrival of the first Level I (Minimum Security) inmates. Designed as a Level IV (Maximum-Security) institution, it will house about 5,000 inmates when it is fully activated in January 2006. The institution is also designed to be the first fully programmed Level IV institution in California with a variety of academic and vocational education programs, thereby increasing an offender’s chances of reentering society successfully.

“While California’s prison population has remained relatively stable over the last two years, there has been a significant increase in the number of maximum security inmates and in the average time served,” said Roderick Q. Hickman, Secretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency (YACA). “This led to an increase in inmate violence and threats to staff and public safety.

“Prisons are designed to serve the public safety by keeping inmates in custody and preparing them for their eventual release. This new facility will ease the pressure and lower the risk to staff at the state’s other 10 maximum-security prisons,” Hickman added.

The number of maximum-security male inmates in California prisons has increased—in numbers and in percentage of total population—from about 28,230 inmates (18.8 percent of total population) in 2000 to about 31,730 (21 percent of total). In addition, the number of second- and third-strike inmates has increased from approximately 38,400 in 2001 to more than 40,200 in 2004. Coupled with these numbers is a gradual increase in average time served, from a relatively low 16 months in 1994 to 19 months in 2004.

The prison is composed of four facilities, including about 500 Substance Abuse Treatment beds and two Administrative Segregation Units (ASU). These four facilities are located inside the secure perimeter, which is composed of a combination of double fences topped with barbed wire, perimeter towers, a sophisticated communications system, and a lethal electrified fence. Located outside the secure perimeter are the Minimum Support Facility (MSF) and a number of prison-wide support services, including administration, warehousing and maintenance.

Inmates will participate in a number of academic and vocational education programs. There will be special programs that include general and a law libraries, religious programs, Arts-in-Corrections, recreation, and substance abuse treatment.

The prison construction began in June 2002. Design and construction costs were $379 million, with an annual operating budget of approximately $136 million. The prison is located on 480 acres, with an additional 200 acres on an adjacent site for wastewater disposal. When fully activated, the prison will have about 780 custody and 365 support staff..