Valley State Prison

Coordinates: 37°06′18″N 120°09′18″W / 37.1050°N 120.1550°W / 37.1050; -120.1550
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Valley State Prison
LocationChowchilla, California
Coordinates37°06′18″N 120°09′18″W / 37.1050°N 120.1550°W / 37.1050; -120.1550
Security classMedium
Population2,973 (151.6% capacity) (as of January 31, 2023[1])
OpenedApril 1995
Managed byCalifornia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
WardenMatthew Kyle McVay [2]

Valley State Prison (VSP), previously the Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), is a state prison in Chowchilla, California.[3] It is across the road from Central California Women's Facility. It was formerly a prison for women.

It is 250 miles (400 km) north of Downtown Los Angeles.[4]


Location of Chowchilla in Madera County, and Madera County in California

VSP is a Level II (medium security) facility which houses Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) inmates. The housing consists of open dormitories with secure perimeter fences and armed coverage.[5]

As of July 31, 2022, VSP was incarcerating people at 152.2% of its design capacity, with 3,014 occupants, making it the most over-capacity state prison in California.[6]


The prison opened in April 1995.[7] In 1996, the City of Chowchilla was given permission to perform a non-contiguous annexation of VSPW.[8]

Ted Koppel interviewed many staff, including Dr. Anthony DiDomenico, the chief medical officer of VSPW, in October 1999 for series of episodes of Nightline.[9] In the expose, the physician was quoted as saying "I've heard [from a particular female parolee, at CDCR-approved conference] inmates tell me that they would deliberately like to be examined [i.e., receive a pelvic examination ]. It's the only male contact they get."[9] After the airing of the Nightline episode, only DiDomenico was reassigned "to a desk job in Sacramento" for his description.[9][10]

An October 2000 California state legislative committee hearing on female inmates' medical issues was held at VSPW.[11] At the hearing, approximately 15 inmates "described grave medical problems" at VSPW and Central California Women's Facility; however, the physician representing the California Department of Corrections stated that she felt the female inmates "were getting the best care possible."[11]

Starting in April 2007, VSPW received some inmates from California Rehabilitation Center after closure of the women's wing at that prison.[12] The population at VSPW "swelled by 8 percent"; furthermore, "the court-appointed overseer of prison medical care" stated that VSPW's medical system might "collapse entirely" due to the extra prisoners.[12]

Inmate programs[edit]

Budget cuts in 2009 "drastically reduced the number of academic, vocational, and SAP assignments" (p. 3).[13] The rate of recidivism at VSPW is approximately 72%.[14] There are numerous Self-Help programs for inmates ranging from 12-step inmate facilitated groups such as Alcoholic Anonymous, Battered Women, Domestic Violence, and Narcotics Anonymous.[15]

In addition to inmate-facilitated self-help programs, outside volunteer groups also conduct classes and workshops, some of which have been featured in national and international media. Crossroads allow at-risk youth to visit VSPW facilities and hear from volunteer inmates about life in prison. This program was featured in an episode on Arts and Entertainment Television Network called "Beyond Scared Straight".[16] Freedom to Choose is an all volunteer service project of the University of Santa Monica that has been teaching decriminogenic life skills and forgiveness workshops at VSPW twice a year since March 2004,[17][18][19] and was featured in a documentary that was awarded Best Documentary at the Emerging Filmmakers Showcase, American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.[citation needed]

Conversion to male institution[edit]

The CDCR began converting the prison into a facility for low-risk male inmates in 2012.[20] The conversion was completed in January 2013, with the last female inmates in the facility transferred to the nearby Central California Women's Facility and California Institution for Women (CIW) in Chino, San Bernardino County, California.[21][22] Some inmates nearing the end of their sentence have been transferred to various county jails.

Notable inmates[edit]

Current inmates[edit]

Former inmates[edit]


  1. ^ "California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Monthly Report of Population As of Midnight January 31, 2023" (PDF). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Internal Oversight and Research. January 31, 2023. Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  2. ^ "CDCR - Valley State Prison (VSP)". Retrieved 2018-05-05.
  3. ^ "Chowchilla city, California Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 10, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Bartholomew, Dana. "Last woman convicted in Missy Avila murder released from prison on Monday". Los Angeles Daily News. December 10, 2012. Retrieved on June 20, 2013.
  5. ^ "CDCR - Valley State Prison (VSP)". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. California's Correctional Facilities. Archived 2007-12-14 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 22 Dec 2007.
  8. ^ City of Chowchilla. General Plan Update, Introduction and Preface. [permanent dead link] Discussion draft, July 20, 2005.
  9. ^ a b c Delsohn, Gary. Prison Doctor Loses Post Over TV Comment. He Told Newsman Women Inmates Like Pelvic Exams. Sacramento Bee, October 15, 1999.
  10. ^ Bentley, Rick. Series Exposes the Untold Women's Prison Experience. Fresno Bee, October 29, 1999.
  11. ^ a b Davis, Jim. Chowchilla Inmates Criticize Health Care. One Legislator Says the Women's Testimony 'Curdled My Stomach.' Fresno Bee, October 12, 2000.
  12. ^ a b Schultz, E.J. Female inmates: Jammed behind bars? Chowchilla lockups are at more than double their capacity, provoking health concerns. Archived 2007-05-28 at Sacramento Bee, July 9, 2007.
  13. ^ Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) (2011). "Institution Statistics". CDCR, State of California. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
  14. ^ [dead link]
  15. ^ "Valley State Prison for Women". Archived from the original on 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
  16. ^ "Beyond Scared Straight". Archived from the original on 2011-01-09. Retrieved 2011-02-05.
  17. ^ Gendreau P., French S.A., and A. Taylor (2002). What works (What doesn’t work) Revised 2002. Invited Submission to the International Community Corrections Association Monograph Series Project.
  18. ^ "University Of Santa Monica | Programs in Spiritual Psychology". Retrieved 2018-04-15.
  19. ^ "The Freedom to Choose Project". Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  20. ^ "CDCR Announces Plan to Convert Female Facility to House Low-Level Male Inmates". Archived from the original on 2012-01-11. Retrieved 2013-01-16.
  21. ^ "Valley State Prison continues conversion to men's facility". Archived from the original on 2012-12-01. Retrieved 2013-01-16.
  22. ^ Updated: Thu Sep 14, 2017 01:35 am (2017-09-14). "Valley State Prison for Women News". Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved 2018-04-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ "Governor denies parole for man convicted in 1995 killing of Arroyo Grande teen".
  24. ^ "KEY Assignment: Javier Angel Murder". KEYT. 11 July 2011. Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  25. ^ "KEY Assignment: Parole Denied for Julia Diaz". KEYT. 14 July 2011. Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  26. ^ Geringer, Joseph. "Guilty as Sin Archived 2009-03-04 at the Wayback Machine". Diane Downs: Her Children Got in the Way of Her Love. Crime Library. Retrieved on November 14, 2010.
  27. ^ Egelko, Bob (2008-09-23). "15 years to life in S.F. dog maul death". SFGate. Retrieved 2018-04-15.

External links[edit]