Central California Women's Facility

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Central California Women's Facility (CCWF)
Location Chowchilla, California
Coordinates 37°05′37″N 120°09′10″W / 37.0935°N 120.1528°W / 37.0935; -120.1528Coordinates: 37°05′37″N 120°09′10″W / 37.0935°N 120.1528°W / 37.0935; -120.1528
Status Operational
Security class Minimum-maximum
Capacity 2,004
Population 3,676 (183.4%) (as of 31 December 2012[1])
Opened October 1990
Managed by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Warden Deborah K. Johnson

Central California Women's Facility (CCWF) is a female-only California Department of Corrections state prison located in Chowchilla, California.[2] It is across the road from Valley State Prison. CCWF prison is the largest female correctional facility in the United States,[3] and houses the State of California's death row for women.


CCWF covers 640 acres (260 ha). As of Fiscal Year 2006/2007, CCWF had a total of 1,205 staff and an annual operating budget of US$138 million. As of March 2012, the facility's total population was 2,836, or more than 141.5 percent of its design capacity of 2,004.[1]

CCWF holds prisoners at almost all security levels:[3][4]

  • Reception Center (RC) – provides short term housing to process, classify and evaluate incoming inmates

Level I through Level IV are all housed together inside a 32-room housing unit. There are 256 inmates of all levels housed together with only three Correctional Officers. On the Reception Yard there are 276 inmates per housing unit of unclassified inmates supervised by only two officers.

  • Condemned (Cond) housing – holds inmates with death sentences

The prison provides inmate academic education, work and vocational training, counseling and specialized programs for the purpose of successful reintegration into society.[3]

TransMetro provides bus transportation to CCFW. The Chowchilla Family Express previously provided transportation for family members from major California cities to visit prisoners at the facility until its closure on June 30, 2014.[5]


The Madera County board of supervisors gave the prison its current name in 1989 "after months of discussion and disagreement."[6] CCWF opened in October 1990, having cost $141 million to construct.[7]

In 1996, the City of Chowchilla was given permission to perform a "non-contiguous annexation" of CCWF.[8]

Starting in April 2007, CCWF received some inmates from California Rehabilitation Center after closure of the women's wing at that prison.[9] The population at CCWF "swelled by 8 percent."[9]

Health services at CCWF have been the subject of controversy over the years, as exemplified by the following events:[citation needed]

  • In June 1991, an inmate died; some inmates "refused to report to their prison jobs" to protest the prison's medical care "which they said was linked to the death."[10] Later, an autopsy was conducted to show that the inmate "died of acute inflammation of the pancreas," not "an overdose of the tranquilizer Haldol" as some inmates believed.[11]
  • Over 100 protesters outside the prison in January 1994 alleged that CCWF "failed to provide a medical specialist and educational programs to deal with HIV/AIDS-infected inmates," and that CCWF's healthcare providers "often ignore inmate ailments and provide little or no follow-up examinations."[12]
  • An April 1995 class action lawsuit against CCWF and California Institution for Women "allege[d] that inmates suffer terribly and in some cases die because of inadequate medical care."[13] A 1997 settlement agreement led to two reports showing "improvements" in health care for female prisoners, but plaintiffs' lawyers claimed that "the changes deal[t] mostly with medical records, not actual care."[14]
  • From July to November 1996, a private laboratory billed CCWF $161,000 "for thousands of medical tests, including Pap smears to detect cervical cancer, AIDS tests, biopsies and urinalyses" even though the tests had never been used on the inmates.[15] At least six other prisons also used the laboratory.[15] Although the State of California closed the laboratory in 1997, a 2000 newspaper investigation found that there was "little evidence of any attempt by the California Department of Corrections to retest inmates or notify them that their test results were faked."[15]
  • In 1999, an inmate with "hepatitis C and liver disease" died after being "prescribed anti-TB medications known to be toxic to patients with liver disease."[16] A wrongful-death lawsuit based on the case was "settled for $225,000" in 2002.[16]
  • In the "month and a half" prior to December 20, 2000, seven CCWF inmates died.[17] Of these, four "apparently succumbed to chronic terminal illnesses," but an advocacy group claimed that the deaths "were precipitated by inadequate care."[17] The other three "died suddenly and unexpectedly," which led to autopsies being performed.[17] As a result, the three causes of death were determined to be "heart problems and natural causes," "a severe asthma attack and chok[ing] on her vomit after a routine strip search," and "clogged arteries and an enlarged heart."[18] Nevertheless, "relatives of the three women" and a physician from the University of California, San Francisco "who reviewed their deaths" held the opinion that "better health care could have saved their lives."[18]
  • A hospice program was started at CCWF in the summer of 2000, but by mid-2001 was "seldom" used.[18] One possible explanation was a low amount of funding compared with the men's hospice at California Medical Facility; another possible explanation was CCWF's granting "compassionate releases to dying inmates who otherwise might enter the program."[18]
  • In December 2003, seven CCWF inmates sued seven physicians and "several nurses" for "malpractice, negligence and unprofessional conduct."[19]
  • In February 2007, the California Office of the Inspector General concluded "Numerous studies show that despite an annual cost of $36 million, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s in-prison substance abuse treatment programs have little or no impact on recidivism."[20] The report specifically mentioned the "New Choice female felon program" at CCWF, for which "12-month recidivism rates... were lower for non-participants than for participants."[20]


As of 2007, of the prison guards, 31% were women. 19% of sergeants were women, and less than 1% of lieutenants are women.[21]

Death Row[edit]

After Governor Pete Wilson decreed in December 1991 that CCWF shall hold all female Death Row inmates in California, Maureen McDermott became the first Death Row inmate at CCWF.[22][23]

The Death Row inmates' names (with years of sentencing) are:[24]

Notable inmates[edit]

  • Susan Atkins, an associate of Charles Manson, was transferred to CCWF on September 24, 2008, with a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer.[26] She died at CCWF on September 24, 2009.[27]
  • Betty Broderick was moved from California Institution for Women to CCWF in March 1992.[28] She became eligible for parole in March 2010.[29] As of October 2010, she is again at the California Institution for Women.[30]
  • Jeena Han, is serving 26 years to life in prison for attempted murder and false imprisonment of her twin sister Sunny Han to assume her identity and leave the country.
  • Nikki Charm, porn star, for auto theft and burglary. Sentenced for five years in 2002.
  • Helen L. Golay, whose crimes committed in 1999 and 2005 in Los Angeles County became known as Black Widow murders. She is serving life in prison without possibility of parole.
  • Megan Hogg, sentenced to 25 years to life in 1999 for murdering her three daughters.
  • Marjorie Knoller was released from CCWF and sent to Ventura County on parole in January 2004.[31][32][33][34] She had reportedly just served "about 16 months" at Valley State Prison for Women.[35]
  • Sara Kruzan is a victim of human trafficking and a convicted murderer. In 1994, at the age of 16, she was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole after being convicted of murdering her pimp;[36] in January 2011, outgoing governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted her sentence to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole.[37] In January 2013, her conviction was reduced to 2nd degree manslaughter and her sentence to 19 years, making her eligible for parole. A parole hearing was conducted June 12, 2013; she was found suitable for parole and released on October 31, 2013.
  • Stephanie Lazarus, who, in 1986 while a Los Angeles Police officer murdered Sherri Rae Rasmussen. She was convicted 2012 and is serving 27 years to life. Her parole eligibility will be in 2039.
  • Ellie Nesler was first imprisoned at CCWF for a 10-year sentence beginning in January 1994.[38] During her stay, she received treatment for breast cancer.[39] She was released in October 1997 after a plea bargain.[40][41] She was again at CCWF between 2002 and June 2006 to "serve a sentence for selling drugs."[42]
  • Dorothea Puente "was convicted in 1993 on five counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole" at CCWF.[43] She died at CCWF in March 2011.[44]
  • Kristin Rossum, currently serving a life sentence in California for poisoning her husband Greg deVillers with fentanyl she stole from her job and attempting to pass off his death as a suicide, made famous from the crime show Snapped as well as other media.
  • Judy Wong, former mayor and first Chinese-American councilmember from the City of Temple City, California. Pleaded no-contest to corruption charges and accepted a prison sentence for her role in a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving developers. Released from prison May 17, 2011.
  • Nancy Garrido, convicted along with husband Philip Garrido for kidnapping Jaycee Dugard. Serving 36 years to life imprisonment.[45]
  • Dana Sue Gray, convicted of killing three elderly women in 1994. Gray was sentenced on October 16, 1998, and is serving life without the possibility of parole.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Offender Information Services Branch (3 January 2013). "Monthly Report of Population" (PDF). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: 2. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Chowchilla city, California." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 10, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Central California Women's Facility (CCWF) (2009). "Mission Statement". California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  4. ^ California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. California's Correctional Facilities. Accessed 22 Dec 2007.
  5. ^ "Home." Chowchilla Family Express. Retrieved on September 14, 2015.
  6. ^ Lopez, Pablo. Madera County Board Names Women's Prison. Fresno Bee, September 6, 1989.
  7. ^ Christensen, Kim. New Madera women's prison to open. But facility won't ease overcrowding at Frontera by much. Orange County Register, September 30, 1990.
  8. ^ City of Chowchilla. General Plan Update, Introduction and Preface, Discussion Draft. General Plan July 20, 2005.
  9. ^ a b Schultz, E.J. Female inmates: Jammed behind bars? Chowchilla lockups are at more than double their capacity, provoking health concerns. Sacramento Bee, July 9, 2007.
  10. ^ McCarthy, Charles. Prisoners Strike to Protest Health Care. An Inmate's Death Prompts a Two-Day Demonstration at Chowchilla Women's Prison. Fresno Bee, July 3, 1991.
  11. ^ McCarthy, Charles. Disease Blamed for Death of Tranquilized Inmate. Fresno Bee, July 19, 1991.
  12. ^ Medina, M. Cristina. Protesters Say Prison Health Care Inadequate. Demonstrators at the Central California Women's Facility at Chowchilla Say Little is Done for HIV/AIDS-Infected Inmates. Fresno Bee, January 30, 1994.
  13. ^ Sward, Susan, and Bill Wallace. Female Inmates Sue State Prisons. Neglect of health care cited. San Francisco Chronicle, April 5, 1995.
  14. ^ Vitucci, Claire. Report finds improvements to inmate care: But women's health services still substandard, lawyers say. Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA), December 22, 1999.
  15. ^ a b c Russell, Sabin. State Fumbles Prison Lab Testing. Company's fake results may never have been corrected. San Francisco Chronicle, July 6, 2000.
  16. ^ a b McCarthy, Charles. Kin, Chowchilla prison settle in inmate's death. Fresno Bee, June 14, 2002.
  17. ^ a b c Russell, Sabin. 2 More Die At Women's Prison in Chowchilla. 3 of 7 recent deaths under investigation. San Francisco Chronicle, December 20, 2000.
  18. ^ a b c d Leedy, Matt. Heart Attack Killed Inmate. Stanford U. Doctors Back Earlier Findings in Chowchilla Case. Fresno Bee, April 6, 2001. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Leedy" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  19. ^ Aleman-Padilla, Lisa. Inmates sue over medical services - Seven in Chowchilla allege they didn't get adequate treatment. Fresno Bee, December 19, 2003.
  20. ^ a b Office of the Inspector General, State of California. Special Review Into In-Prison Substance Abuse Programs Managed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. February 2007.
  21. ^ Talvi, Silja (2007). Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System. Emeryville: Seal Press. pp. 57. 
  22. ^ McCarthy, Charles. Women's Death Row is Created - Inmate Waits to Die in Madera County. Daily News of Los Angeles, December 16, 1991.
  23. ^ Wilson, Wayne. Four Await Fate at Hands of State on Women's Death Row. Sacramento Bee, September 14, 1993.
  24. ^ Streib, Victor L. Death Penalty for Female Offenders, January 1, 1973, Through June 30, 2007. July 13, 2007.
  25. ^ "曾女杀夫与子 陪审团建议死刑." Sina Network. August 10, 2011. Retrieved on January 29, 2016.
  26. ^ De Atley, Richard K (2008-11-21). "Ailing Manson follower transferred to Chowchilla facility". Press-Enterprise. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  27. ^ Woo, Elaine (2009-09-26). "Charles Manson follower Susan Atkins dies at 61". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  28. ^ Rose, Jeffrey J. Prisoner Broderick is moved. Court recommended counseling isn't available at facility. San Diego Union-Tribune, March 21, 1992.
  29. ^ Her dark thoughts: pleading insanity. San Diego Union-Tribune, July 30, 2003.
  30. ^ http://inmatelocator.cdcr.ca.gov/search.aspx
  31. ^ Parrilla, Leslie. Parolee in fatal dog-mauling case moves to Ventura County. Ventura County Star, January 3, 2004.
  32. ^ Cavanaugh, Andrea. Parolee's Plans Unknown - San Francisco Woman Convicted in Dog Mauling Sent to Ventura County. Daily News of Los Angeles, January 3, 2004.
  33. ^ Booth, Claire. Knoller Paroled In Dog-Mauling Death - Sent To Southern California, She Must Find A Job But Can't Practice Law. Contra Costa Times, January 3, 2004.
  34. ^ Associated Press. Woman imprisoned in dog mauling case is released. Daily Breeze (Torrance, CA), January 3, 2004.
  35. ^ Malnic, Eric. Owner of Killer Dogs to Go Free; The woman convicted in the fatal S.F. mauling will be paroled to the Southland. Her husband was paroled to Northern California. Los Angeles Times, January 1, 2004. Accessed March 27, 2011.
  36. ^ Macallair, Daniel. U.S. among harshest for sentencing children. San Francisco Chronicle, January 20, 2008. Accessed March 27, 2011.
  37. ^ Editorial. All the Sara Kruzans deserve a chance. Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2011. Accessed March 27, 2011.
  38. ^ Frank, Russell. Nesler Lawyers to Ask Again for Bail. Modesto Bee, January 26, 1994.
  39. ^ Rafferty, Carole. Hailed as an Avenging Hero 18 Months Ago, Ellie Nesler Adjusts to Prison Life as She Confronts Disease and the Consequences of her Actions. Ellie Nesler: A Mother's Regret. San Jose Mercury News, October 9, 1994.
  40. ^ Reed, Dan. Killer of Molester Due to Go Free. Friends Await Nesler Release. San Jose Mercury News, September 29, 1997.
  41. ^ Ryan, Joan. Chastened Ellie Nesler Freed. Plea bargain in slaying of alleged molester. San Francisco Chronicle, October 2, 1997.
  42. ^ Woman Who Shot Man in Courtroom Freed. San Jose Mercury News, June 6, 2006.
  43. ^ Wiley, Walt. New charm graces house where Puente once killed. Sacramento Bee, June 11, 2004.
  44. ^ Connell, Rich. Dorothea Puente, Boarding House Operator Who Killed Tenants, Dies at 82. Los Angeles Times, March 28, 2011. Accessed March 27, 2011.
  45. ^ "Phillip, Nancy Garrido start prison sentences for Dugard kidnap". KABC-TV. June 17, 2011.

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