Special Report: Northern California Women's Facility
The 1998-1999 Sacramento County Grand Jury toured the Northern California Women's Facility (NCWF) on April 30, 1999. This state correctional facility is located on Arch Road in Stockton, two miles east of State Highway 99.
Although this facility is located in San Joaquin County, it is of interest to residents of Sacramento County because it is the only women's correctional institute in Northern California, and serves as the reception center for women returning to custody on parole violations for all of Northern California.
The NCWF is outside the jurisdiction of the Sacramento County Grand Jury. The Grand Jury recognized the limit of its authority, but appreciated the opportunity to tour the facility with the warden's consent. The Grand Jury made no investigation, and includes its observations as a matter of public interest only. The 1998-1999 Sacramento County Grand Jury sought the opportunity to visit this women's facility to compare it to the men's correctional facilities within Sacramento County.
The NCWF opened in 1987 on 134 acres of farmland. Built to house 400, it can handle up to 800 inmates by double bunking each cell; there were 760 inmates on-site at the time of the Grand Jury's visit. According to the warden, the annual operating budget is $17 million. The facility accommodates security Level II and III inmates. The prison is built around a large central yard, and there are four units, each housing 200 inmates. There is also an administrative segregation unit for inmates who may require "special housing controls." The Grand Jury was told that there have been no escapes from the NCWF since it was opened.
Most inmates at the facility work, which provides purpose for the inmates, facilitates sentence reduction, allows them to earn a modest wage, and encourages vocational training. Vocational education programs include landscaping, janitorial services and office services or related technology services. The Prison Industry Authority also operates a laundry at NCWF, a modern, high-volume operation that serves not only NCWF but several other San Joaquin County facilities. Officials at NCWF stated that they are exploring the feasibility of opening a recycling center, like the one at the Folsom Community Correctional Facility, as a service to Stockton or Manteca.
NCWF provides an educational program for inmates. When a woman enters the facility, she is tested for academic acumen. If her performance is below the 9th grade competency level, she is enrolled in an academic program with focuses on earning the General Education Development (GED) certificate. According to NCWF officials, approximately 70 percent of inmates entering the facility require remedial schooling.
There are a variety of medical services available for NCWF inmates. Thorough physical and mental health examinations, including testing for tuberculosis and syphilis, are conducted at the time of entry. The Grand Jury was informed that approximately 20 percent of inmates have mental health problems; psychiatric and psychological services are provided. Although the facility handles dental and minor medical problems onsite, major medical services are provided for inmates at Doctor's Hospital in Manteca.
The NCWF offers self-help and social programs for inmates. These include, for example, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, Long Termers Program, religious services and programs to facilitate interactions with children and family members. The "Arts in Corrections" program provides inmates exposure to fine arts. A library and gymnasium are available.
The Grand Jury was impressed with the appearance of the facility and its maintenance, the breadth of programs available for the women, and the knowledge and enthusiasm of the administration and staff. According to officials interviewed at the NCWF, the high rate of recidivism for those paroled from detention is a persistent problem with most State correctional facilities. At NCWF, this problem is most often linked to illicit drug use, the offense underlying the incarceration of the majority of the inmates. Officials at the NCWF informed the Grand Jury that two modular units to accommodate up to 200 inmates in drug treatment programs will be completed by July 1999. The Grand Jury is aware, however, that the remedy for drug abuse transcends the NCWF, and is ultimately the responsibility of the residents of the State of California.