North Kern State Prison
|Population||4,530 (168.2%) (as of 31 December 2012)|
|Managed by||California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation|
North Kern State Prison (NKSP) is a medium-security prison located in Delano, Kern County, California. Opened in April 1993, this state prison houses over 5,000 inmates. North Kern serves as a reception center for incoming inmates. Inmates usually serve two to three months at North Kern while staff processes their criminal and health records and assesses their physiological and social needs before assigning them to another prison. While at North Kern, inmates can engage in educational programs. With North Kern State Prison and Kern Valley State Prison, which is located one mile away and houses close to 4,800 inmates, Kern County has one of the largest prison populations of any county in America.
In the early 1990s, California experienced a significant growth in the number of inmates. Many rural counties lobbied to house a prison because of the health care and job opportunities that a prison provides for its employees. Delano was one of the cities in the counties. Since North Kern State Penitentiary opened in 1993, the city has grown immensely. Before the two prisons were built, Delano was a rural city with a large migrant farm-worker population. The construction of the two prisons helped the small city develop into a more urban society. Delano benefited from the new sewage system being built as well as new electrical infrastructure, and spurred retail and housing development.
North Kern is an all-male facility, housing 4,171 inmates, or 170.0 percent of its design capacity of 2,447. Of these, a majority are housed in the Reception Center (RC) waiting to be transferred to another state prison and approximately 1,400 inmates live in the mainline part of the prison. Inmates are separated by security and custody levels upon arriving at North Kern.
The mainline inmates are considered not as dangerous as RC inmates so certain privileges are granted to them, such as working outside the prison walls. Out of the 1,400 mainline inmates, 800 stay behind an electrical fence and the other 400 inmates (honor inmates or best behaved) are enclosed by a regular fence. Mainline inmates run the support services throughout the prison, for example, kitchen, laundry, education, and library, and occasionally clean highways or work in a warehouse nearby. All mainline inmates live in dorms and have their own yard separate from the RC. In addition to holding a job at the prison, mainline inmates are eligible for education and reentry programs.
Inmates housed in the Reception Center (RC) typically spend two to three months at North Kern before being transferred to another prison. They stay behind the electrical fence and, if approved, may help run support services. North Kern has four cellblocks with each cellblock having its own yard. All cells are doubled bunked. Most RC inmates are custody level four inmates and reside in cells. A few lower custody RC inmates that stay in dorms.
Overcrowding is a day-to-day reality, hence the double bunked cells. The sewage system was also not built for such a large population, leading to periodic toxic spills. A grinder and a backup sewage system were installed a few years after the prison opened to crush the excess trash and help the sewage system run more efficiently.
North Kern offers a variety of programs to the inmates. Since most inmates coming into prison do not have a high school education, GED classes are offered. As of 2013, North Kern, offers no vocational training programs.
North Kern has experienced frequent racial tension. The two preeminent gangs are the Sureños and the Paisas (Mexican nationals).
On October 1, 2007, an inmate escaped from the institution. The inmate, 29-year-old Abelardo Morales, was reported missing from the Level I yard of the prison at 9:17 p.m. Morales was serving a one-year, six-month term for manufacture and sales of narcotics, and possession of a weapon.
On the night of April 21, 2015, a guard walking a yard at North Kern State Prison was struck by gunfire, which penetrated his stab-proof vest. He was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. Authorities believe the gunman was outside the prison walls when the shots were fired. 
The number of visitation hours for which each inmate is eligible depends on his security and custody level. Inmates with few infractions are allowed to have visits more often and longer. The mainline inmates are allowed to have human contact visits as well as conjugal visits but only from their wives. The RC inmates have to have their visits behind glass.
- Offender Information Services Branch (3 January 2013). "Monthly Report of Population" (PDF). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: 2. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- North Kern State Prison (NKSP) (2012). "Mission Statement". California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Retrieved 16 May 2012.