News Releases

CDCR Announces Plan to Convert Female Facility to House Low-Level Male Inmates

Conversion will reduce inmate overcrowding and keep jobs in region
SACRAMENTO- The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) today announced the decision to convert Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) in Chowchilla to a facility that will house low- to medium-security adult male inmates. The conversion will help alleviate the adult male inmate overcrowding problem and avoid staff layoffs at the institution. 
The conversion will happen in phases and is anticipated to be completed by July 2013. The facility currently houses 3,171 female inmates. The level of male inmates and staff is expected to be similar once the conversion is complete. 
With the implementation of 2011 Public Safety Realignment, the department expects a significant decline in the female population. The conversion at Chowchilla will allow CDCR to create additional space for male inmates by using an existing facility and maintaining a viable workforce in the Central Valley region.
The Department is mandated by a federal court order affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce its statewide inmate population in its 33 prisons to 137.5 percent of design capacity by June 27, 2013. Realignment – the cornerstone of the state’s plan to reduce inmate overcrowding without releasing any inmate prior to completion of his or her sentence – began October 1, 2011. Since that date all individuals newly convicted of non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenses serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prison.
As a substantial portion of female offenders fall under the definition of non-serious, non-violent, and non sex-offenders, the female inmate population at CDCR has dropped. On June 6, 2007 the female population hit an all-time high of 11,891. On September 28, 2011, CDCR had 9,404 females housed in its three female prisons, VSPW, Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, and California Institution for Women in Corona.  As of November 30, 2011, the female population dropped to 8,468. Projections indicate the female population will drop to 5,767 by June 30, 2013.
VSPW’s female inmate population hit an all-time high of 4,327 on July 22, 2007. On September 28, 2011 VSPW had 3,489 female inmates housed at the institution. As of November 30, VSPW’s population was 3,138.
Conversion of the facility will conform to CDCR’s operational policies and standards for a male Level II prison.
CDCR met with the Chowchilla community in August to listen to any concerns. After careful evaluation and consideration, VSPW was selected for conversion in lieu of closure. CDCR will divide the remaining inmate population between the other two female institutions.
The State’s environmental review process was completed Monday, December 5 with the filing of a Notice of Exemption (NOE), making the conversion decision final.  The NOE was filed as required with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, State Clearinghouse after being signed by CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. CDCR had met with Chowchilla city officials a number of times in the last several months to discuss this potential conversion and advised them of the decision prior to its filing.
A copy of the NOE can be found here at
A letter to District Assembly member Kristin Olson from CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate can be found here:
For more information about 2011 Public Safety Realignment visit CDCR’s Realignment website here:
For more information about the Three-Judge Court order visit CDCR’s website here:
# # # #
December 9, 2011
Contact: Dana Toyama (916) 445-4950