Folsom Prison Facts

Folsom State Prison is an institution in the California State Prison System. It is located in the city of the same name and is home to 2,912 prisoners as of March 2012. However, it is only built to hold 2,469 prisoners, making it more than 400 prisoners over capacity.

The history of Folsom State Prison

While no longer a maximum-security prison, Folsom State Prison was initially built to hold prisoners under maximum-security measures. It once contained death row inmates, as California was handling executions for the United States. Those executed at the prison numbered 93 by hanging and several more by gas after a chamber was installed at the prison in 1938.

Folsom State Prison opened in 1880. This makes it the second oldest prison in California. It was also the first on the planet to be outfitted with electricity. Yet another claim to fame is Johnny Cash's performances there. The legendary singer performed for inmates at the prison in 1966 and 1968.

Inmates of Folsom State Prison

Famous individuals are common in Folsom State Prison, given the prison's proximity to the film capital of the world, Hollywood. Danny Trejo of films such as 'Desperado,' 'Grindhouse' and 'The Devil's Rejects' served time there. There are also criminals who are infamous such as Charles Manson, leader of the murderous Manson Family.

Folsom State Prison is home to several prisoner initiatives as of 2012. There are vocational training programs, education programs and work programs. Unfortunately, they are all subject to budgetary cutbacks and have been limited due to those constraints.

Prisoner escapes at Folsom State Prison

In 1932, a prisoner died when trying to escape Folsom State Prison. It was not the guards that killed him but rather his own poor planning. He tried to make a breathing device so he could escape through the mill pond. However, the tube on his device was not long enough, so he drowned in the pond.

Two employees of the Folsom State Prison died during a prison escape attempt in 1937. Warden Clarence Larkin was stabbed to death by convicts who jumped him before trying to flee. Officer Harry Martin was stabbed to death in the same attack. Two of the prisoners were shot and killed during the skirmish. Five more were sentenced to death and subsequently executed.

Gangs and Folsom State Prison

Riots and gang violence are commonplace at Folsom State Prison. This is reflective of the gang violence that plagues the state of California. In 2010, there was a riot involving 200 prisoners. Seven of these prisoners were injured when corrections officers fired on them, but none perished.

Despite the outbreaks of violence, Folsom State Prison is a minimum-security prison in modern times. It has level 1 and level 2 security areas for prisoners. Those housed in level 1 security have open dormitories and no secure fence. Level 2 has open dormitories and a secure fence. Level 3 prisoners may also be housed at Folsom State Prison, but in level 2 conditions.

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