Valley State Prison
|Capacity||1,536 (female) 444 (male)|
|Population||1,353 (304.7%) (male) (as of 31 December 2012)|
|Managed by||California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation|
|Warden||Raythel Fisher, Jr.|
Valley State Prison, previously the Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), is a state prison in Chowchilla, California. It is across the road from Central California Women's Facility. It used to be a prison for women.
VSPW covers approximately 640 acres (260 ha). In September 28, 2010, VSPW had a total of 1,222 staff and an annual operating budget of $129.3 million. As of March 2012, it had a design capacity of 1,980 but a total institution population of 2,431.
VSPW holds prisoners at almost all security levels:
- Reception Center (RC), which provides short term housing to process, classify and evaluate incoming inmates
- Level I housing – Open dormitories without a secure perimeter
- Level II housing – Open dormitories with secure perimeter fences and armed coverage
- Level III housing – Individual cells, fenced perimeters and armed coverage
- Level IV housing – Cells, fenced or walled perimeters, electronic security, more staff and armed officers both inside and outside the installation
- Security Housing Unit (SHU) – the most secure area within a Level lV prison designed to provide maximum coverage
The mission of VSPW is multi-fold. VSPW functions as a Reception Center (RC) and as a General Population institution providing education and vocational opportunities for inmates. For inmates requiring a higher level of management care, VSPW has an Administrative Housing Unit (ASU) and Security Housing Unit (SHU). VSPW is also designed as the hub facility for female inmates with mobility impairments, and the ASU and SHU serves as a hub for housing inmates in the Mental Health Services Delivery System (MHSDS) at the Enhanced Outpatient Program (EOP) level of care. VSPW also houses pregnant inmates.
The Chowchilla Family Express provides transportation for family members from major California cities to visit prisoners at the facility.
Ted Koppel interviewed many staff, including Dr. Anthony DiDomenico, the chief medical officer of VSPW, in October 1999 for series of episodes of Nightline. 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." After the airing of the Nightline episode, only DiDomenico was reassigned "to a desk job in Sacramento" for his description.
An October 2000 California state legislative committee hearing on female inmates' medical issues was held at VSPW. 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."
Starting in April 2007, VSPW received some inmates from California Rehabilitation Center after closure of the women's wing at that prison. 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.
Budget cuts in 2009 "drastically reduced the number of academic, vocational, and SAP assignments" (p. 3). The rate of recidivism at VSPW is approximately 72%. 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.
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". 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, 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.
Conversion to male institution
The CDCR began converting the prison into a facility for low-risk male inmates in 2012. The conversion was completed in January 2013, with the female inmates transferred to the nearby Central California Women's Facility and California Institution for Women (CIW) in Chino, San Bernardino County, California. Some inmates nearing the end of their sentence have been transferred to various county jails.
- Larissa Schuster (sentenced to life in prison without parole for submerging her husband's body in hydrochloric acid.)
- Julia Rodriquez Diaz inmate#W14425 (first female inmate to receive 15 years parole denial under Proposition 9 (Marsy's Law) Convicted in July 1979 of the murder of 7-year-old boy, Javier Angel. Story told in 2013 on Deadly Women "Heartless Souls" (has been moved to California Institution for Women (CIW) in 2014)
- Diane Downs (convicted in the State of Oregon)
- Laura Ann Doyle (perpetrator of the murder of Missy Avila)
- Marjorie Knoller (involved in the death of Diane Whipple)
- Offender Information Services Branch (3 January 2013). "Monthly Report of Population" (PDF). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: 2. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- "Chowchilla city, California." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 10, 2010.
- 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.
- Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) (2011). "Institution Statistics". CDCR, State of California. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. California's Correctional Facilities. Accessed 22 Dec 2007.
- Madera County Board of Supervisors, Madera County, California. (2010). 2009-2010 Madera County Grand Jury Final Report Valley State Prison for Women. Retrieved from http://www.maderagrandjury.org/.../2009.../09-10-Final-Valley-State-Prison-Women.pdf February 4, 2011
- "Home." Chowchilla Family Express. Retrieved on May 25, 2010.
- City of Chowchilla. General Plan Update, Introduction and Preface. Discussion draft, July 20, 2005.
- Delsohn, Gary. Prison Doctor Loses Post Over TV Comment. He Told Newsman Women Inmates Like Pelvic Exams. Sacramento Bee, October 15, 1999.
- Bentley, Rick. Series Exposes the Untold Women's Prison Experience. Fresno Bee, October 29, 1999.
- Davis, Jim. Chowchilla Inmates Criticize Health Care. One Legislator Says the Women's Testimony 'Curdled My Stomach.' Fresno Bee, October 12, 2000.
- 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.
- Retrieved from http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Facilities_Locator/VSPW-Inmate_Programs.html February 4, 2011
- Retrieved from http://www.aetv.com/beyond-scared-straight/video/?bcpid=712622001001&bckey=AQ~~,AAAAAEK2ejU~,Ai-tVL3JZg3cmQssKh7zIRS8x7AigKgd&bclid=713919091001&bctid=714612029001
- 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.
- Retrieved from http://www.freedomtochoosefoundation.org on February 4, 2011
- "KEY Assignment: Javier Angel Murder". KEYT. Jul 11, 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
- "KEY Assignment: Parole Denied for Julia Diaz". KEYT. Jul 14, 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
- Geringer, Joseph. "Guilty as Sin." Diane Downs: Her Children Got in the Way of Her Love. Crime Library. Retrieved on November 14, 2010.