Inmate population reduction eliminates iconic symbol of overcrowding crisis

After more than two decades of using non-traditional beds, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is no longer double- and triple-bunking inmates in areas that were not designed for housing, such as gymnasiums and dayrooms.

On February 23, CDCR removed the last of such beds and has begun renovation projects.

“Non-traditional beds became the iconic symbol of California’s prison overcrowding crisis,” CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate said. “Now, gyms once filled with inmates in triple-bunk beds are open and can be used for their intended purpose. This demonstrates how much progress California has made in improving inmate conditions and employee safety.”

On October 25, 2006, CDCR reached its all-time-high inmate population of 173,479, more than 200 percent of design capacity in its 33 adult institutions. August 2007 marked the peak of CDCR’s use of non-traditional beds at 19,618 in 72 gyms and 125 dayrooms.

On May 23, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed an order from a federal Three-Judge Court that the State of California must reduce its inmate population to 137.5 percent of design capacity within two years.

Last year, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Assembly Bills AB 109 and AB 117, historic legislation to address the Court’s order in a safe, effective way, while providing local governments with funding for Realignment and without early releases of state prison inmates.

California’s prison population has declined rapidly with the implementation of public safety realignment and actions by CDCR to reduce the state inmate population. As of February 15, 2012, CDCR’s inmate population in its 33 adult institutions was 127,770.

Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI)

Before being fully converted to a reception center in 2002, DVI offered 13 vocational educational programs to inmates, including Painting, Welding Machine Shop, Vocational Office Machine Repair, Shoe Repair and Electronics.

With the decrease in inmates returning to the custody of the CDCR, the mission at DVI has also changed. It is in the process of transitioning back to a Level III mainline institution with a secondary mission as a reception center. With this change it is anticipated that DVI will again offer vocational programs to the inmate population. These vocational programs likely will include: Vocational Welding, Plumbing, HVAC, Auto Body and Office Services.

In 2003, a riot at DVI in Z-Dorm left nine inmates and one CDCR employee injured. A contributing factor behind the riot was the overcrowded conditions at the institution, which was operating at 218 percent of design capacity. The riot involved inmates housed in a former gymnasium that was divided into two large dormitories: Z-Dorm and Y-Dorm. Together, the dormitories housed 690 inmates.

At one point, DVI was operating at 238 percent of design capacity with more than 1,000 non-traditional beds in the institution. On January 20, 2012, DVI deactivated the institution’s final non-traditional beds by closing Z-Dorm. The non-traditional beds in the Y-Dorm were deactivated on November 1, 2011.

The building is now being restored to its intended purpose as a place for inmate recreation and rehabilitative programming.

California Institution for Men

The Reception Center Central Facility-D Gym at California Institution for Men (CIM) housed inmates in non-traditional beds for approximately 25 years. In early November 2011, CIM removed the beds and worked to convert the gymnasium back for inmate recreation. After more than two decades of housing inmates, the gym’s basketball backboards were still functional and could be raised and lowered.

For before and after photos of non-traditional beds, contact CDCR’s Office of Communications or visit CDCR’s Flickr page here at:

For a list of actions CDCR has taken to reduce its inmate population, visit CDCR’s website:

For background information on the Three-Judge Court order, visit CDCR’s website: