News Releases

North Kern State Prison Investigating Inmate Death as a Possible Homicide

DELANO – An inmate from North Kern State Prison (NKSP) died Dec. 12 at an area hospital after he was found unconscious at the prison on Nov. 29. Prison officials are investigating his death as a possible homicide.

Inmate Ruben J. Barela, 49, was pronounced deceased at 1:40 p.m on Thursday, Dec. 12. The cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy.

On Nov. 29 at approximately 10:20 p.m., NKSP staff discovered Barela unconscious and with injuries to his face in the dayroom of his housing unit. Officers immediately responded and staff provided medical aid at the prison. Barela was then transported to an area hospital for a higher level of care.

As a result of the incident, seven inmates were rehoused in the Administrative Segregation Unit pending further investigation by the prison’s Investigative Services Unit. The Office of the Inspector General has been notified.

Barela was received by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from San Bernardino County on Oct. 24, 2019. A second striker, he was sentenced to two years and eight months for evading or attempting to evade a peace officer while driving recklessly.

NKSP houses medium- and minimum-custody general population inmates and provides them vocational and academic education as well as other rehabilitative programs. Part of NKSP is a reception center where newly arriving inmates are processed. After compiling their criminal records, life histories, medical and psychological evaluations and social relationships, NKSP staff determines the inmate’s classification score and institutional placement. NKSP houses more than 4,100 inmates and employs approximately 1,500 people.


CONTACT: (916) 445-4950