Avenal State Prison

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Avenal State Prison (ASP)
Seal of the Calirfornia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.png
Aerial View
Location Avenal, California
Coordinates 35°58′30″N 120°07′12″W / 35.975°N 120.120°W / 35.975; -120.120Coordinates: 35°58′30″N 120°07′12″W / 35.975°N 120.120°W / 35.975; -120.120
Status Operational
Security class Minimum-medium
Capacity 2,920
Population 4,237 (145.1%) (as of March 1, 2018[1])
Opened January 1987
Managed by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Warden Rosemary Ndoh[2]

Avenal State Prison (ASP) is a male-only state prison in the city of Avenal, Kings County, California.


The structures on ASP's 640 acres (260 ha) include "17 open dorm buildings, six 200-bed open dorm E-bed buildings, six converted gymnasiums, a 100-cell administrative segregation unit, and a 10-bed firehouse."[3] It is a "low-medium security" or "Level II" prison with "open dormitories with secure perimeter fences and armed coverage."[3][4] Inmate programs include: Narcotics anonymous, Alcoholics anonymous, SAP, autobody, metal fabrication, plumbing and electrical, PIA furniture, warehouse and egg production.

Population, staffing and budget[edit]

As of Fiscal Year 2006/2007, ASP had 1,603 staff and an annual budget of $136 million.[3] As of September 2007, it had a design capacity of 2,920 but a total institution population of 7,582 (the largest among California state prisons).[5] ASP has been described as the "most overcrowded prison in the state [of California]";[6] its September 2007 occupancy rate was 259.7 percent.

As of March 1, 2018, Avenal was at 145.1% occupied, with 4,237 occupants.[1]


Location of Avenal within Kings County, and location of Kings County within California
Aerial photo of ASP, 2015

In the early 1980s, "almost everyone" in the town of Avenal desired the prison to be built to improve the economic status of the town.[7] It was reportedly "the first prison to be solicited by a local community."[3] As of 1984, the plans were to build "the largest enclosed security compound in the nation."[8]

Despite some opposition,[7] Governor George Deukmejian signed a bill into law in September 1985 to authorize "$117 million from existing prison construction funds to build the prison",[9] and groundbreaking occurred in December 1985.[10] The first inmates arrived in January 1987.[11]

According to newspaper articles, the original name of the prison was "California Correctional Institution at Avenal", which the Kings County Board of Supervisors changed to "Avenal State Prison" in December 1987.[8][12] According to the CDCR Web site, ASP "was originally known as Kings County State Prison. On February 22, 1988, it was officially named Avenal State Prison."[3]

In 2001, a trap-neuter-return program was begun for feral cats that had lived on the prison grounds since it was built.[13] Several years after Sewell was released, ASP officials stopped the program (in February 2005)due to a perceived lack of effectiveness.[14] Subsequently, "the prison traps cats and volunteers are allowed to pick them up at the prison."[14] The organization Feral Paws Rescue continues to advocate for reinstatement of the trap-neuter-return program.[15] Herb Sewell was interviewed about the incident on the road (known as 'The Grapevine') by the nationally syndicated radio host, Phil Hendrie, on June 21, 2004. A copy of the interview can still be heard online at The Phil Hendrie Show website.[16]

In 2005-2006, ASP and Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP) were "particularly affected" by Valley fever, with "150 new cases from PVSP and 30 from ASP" in 2005[17] and 514 at PVSP and 91 at ASP in 2006.[18]

The receiver of the California state prison health care system blamed three deaths among ASP inmates in December 2006 on a "complete breakdown in medical care coverage."[6][19][20]


  1. ^ a b "California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Monthly Report of Population as of Midnight February 28, 2018" (PDF). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Internal Oversight and Research. March 1, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018. 
  2. ^ CDCR. "CDCR - Avenal State Prison (ASP)". www.cdcr.ca.gov. Retrieved 2018-03-17. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Avenal State Prison (ASP) (2009). "Mission Statement". California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Archived from the original on 20 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  4. ^ California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. California's Correctional Facilities. Archived 2007-12-14 at the Wayback Machine. 15 Oct 2007.
  5. ^ California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Monthly Report of Population as of Midnight September 30, 2007.
  6. ^ a b Furillo, Andy. Health care crisis behind bars: Three deaths in two months focus federal attention on state's most overcrowded facility. Sacramento Bee, May 4, 2007.
  7. ^ a b Walters, Dan. A Town That Wants Prison. Sacramento Bee, May 12, 1985.
  8. ^ a b New prison to be largest. Daily Breeze (Torrance, CA), July 18, 1984.
  9. ^ Deukmejian signs prison construction bills. Daily Breeze (Torrance, CA), September 25, 1985.
  10. ^ Geissinger, Steve. Avenal gives new prison project keys to the city. Daily Breeze (Torrance, CA), December 19, 1985.
  11. ^ State's First New Prison in 22 Years Opens in Avenal. San Jose Mercury News, January 29, 1987.
  12. ^ Good, Bob. Kings County Renames Avenal Prison. Fresno Bee, December 24, 1987.
  13. ^ Brazil, Eric. A death sentence handed down to a prison colony of feral felines is commuted to life -- and sterilization. San Francisco Chronicle, September 9, 2001.
  14. ^ a b Jimenez, Sarah. Prison cat program declawed; fur flies: Avenal's feral felines were humanely trapped, neutered and freed. Fresno Bee, September 25, 2006.
  15. ^ Feral Paws Rescue page. Accessed 11 Nov 2007.
  16. ^ [1] The Phil Hendrie Show
  17. ^ Pappagianis, Demosthenes, and the Coccidioidomycosis Serology Laboratory (2007). Coccidioidomycosis in California State Correctional Institutions. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1111 (1), 103–111.
  18. ^ Furillo, Andy. Prison report cites valley fever risks. Construction may release spores that cause disease, increasing inmates' cases. Sacramento Bee, August 16, 2007.
  19. ^ Schultz, E.J. Care of Avenal inmates blasted: Crowded prison gives poor health coverage, state medical czar says. Fresno Bee, March 21, 2007.
  20. ^ Everything Avenal - all questions information here please Part 1. Prison Talk discussion thread, accessed 17 Dec 2007.

External links[edit]