Calipatria State Prison

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Calipatria State Prison (CAL)
Seal of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.png
Aerial View
LocationCalipatria, California
Coordinates33°09′58″N 115°29′10″W / 33.166°N 115.486°W / 33.166; -115.486Coordinates: 33°09′58″N 115°29′10″W / 33.166°N 115.486°W / 33.166; -115.486
Security classMinimum-maximum
Population2,543 (110.1% capacity) (as of July 31, 2022[1])
Managed byCalifornia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
WardenWarren Montgomery[2]

Calipatria State Prison (CAL) is a male-only state prison located in the city of Calipatria, in Imperial County, California.


Although located about 3 miles (4.8 km) from the center of Calipatria, the prison is within the city limits.[3] Called the lowest prison in the Western Hemisphere, it lies 184 feet (56 m) below sea level. As of Fiscal Year 2005/2006, CAL had a total of 1,143 staff and an annual operating budget of $123 million.[4]

The facility covers a total of 1,227.5 acres (496.8 ha) (with the prison on 300 acres (120 ha)).[4] In September 2007, it had a design capacity of 2,308 but a total institution population of 4,180, for an occupancy rate of 181.1 percent.[5]

As of July 31, 2022, CAL was incarcerating people at 110.1% of its design capacity, with 2,543 occupants.[1]

Over 2,000 of its housing units are maximum-security Level IV ("Cells, fenced or walled perimeters, electronic security, more staff and unarmed officers both inside and outside the installation"); the remainder are minimum-security Level I ("Open dormitories without a secure perimeter").[4][6]


Location of Calipatria within Imperial County, and location of Imperial County within California

CAL opened in January 1992,[4] approximately 22 months before California State Prison, Centinela (the other state prison in Imperial County). A $1.5 million electrified fence, which could cause instantaneous death for escaping inmates and which was the first of its kind among California state prisons, was installed in November 1993.[7][8] After a number of birds had died by electrocution, an ornithologist was hired to help redesign the fence and eliminate the problem.[9]

As of 1995, CAL's problems included "double-celling" (placing two inmates in bunk beds in a cell designed for one), psychological stress, a drastic shortage of work for prisoners, chronic understaffing among prison employees, and gang violence.[9] A May 1995 incident in which five inmates stabbed and assaulted eight officers was described in 1997 as the worst inmate attack on staff in California state prisons in recent years.[8]

The weather in the area is desert-like, cold in winter and very hot in summer—up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit. The smell of cow manure pervades the prison and the entire area due to large cattle feed lots nearby.

Angelo Buono, Jr. (also known as the Hillside Strangler) died at CAL in September 2002 of a "massive heart attack."[10]

An August 2005 riot at CAL was the most violent uprising at the prison.[11] The event left 25 inmates and 25 prison staff members wounded.[11] A guard shot and killed an inmate with a Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle, which was believed to have contributed to ending the violence.[11] A spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation stated that the disturbance involved Hispanic gang members."[12]

Notable inmates (current & former)[edit]


  1. ^ a b "California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Monthly Report of Population As of Midnight July 31, 2022" (PDF). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Internal Oversight and Research. July 31, 2022. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 5, 2022. Retrieved September 5, 2022.
  2. ^ CDCR. "CDCR - Calipatria State Prison (CAL)". Retrieved 2018-04-24.
  3. ^ City of Calipatria official Web site. Accessed 22 Dec 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d Calipatria State Prison (CAL) (2009). "Mission Statement". California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Archived from the original on August 6, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  5. ^ California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Monthly Report of Population as of Midnight September 30, 2007. Archived October 26, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. California's Correctional Facilities. Archived 2007-12-14 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 22 Dec 2007.
  7. ^ Buzbee, Sally Streff. Prisoner Advocates Voice Dismay Over State Facility's Lethal - Fence. Daily News of Los Angeles, November 21, 1993.
  8. ^ a b Furillo, Andy. Pressures Building in State's 32 Prisons. Sacramento Bee, January 19, 1997.
  9. ^ a b Davis, Mike. A Prison-Industrial Complex: Hell Factories in the Field. The Nation, Vol. 260, Issue 7, pp. 229-234, February 20, 1995. HTML version. Archived 2007-12-19 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Saunders, Debra J. Death of a strangler. San Francisco Chronicle, October 1, 2002.
  11. ^ a b c Schmidt, Steve. Calipatria riot reflects troubled prison system. Crowding, violence just part of problem. San Diego Union-Tribune, September 4, 2005.
  12. ^ Graswich, R.E. Violent episode at Calipatria prison hard to categorize, officials say. Sacramento Bee, August 24, 2005.
  13. ^ King, Gary C. "The Hillside Strangler: Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi." Investigation Discovery. 2. Retrieved on January 10, 2010.

External links[edit]