California Correctional Institution (CCI) is a state prison for men, located in Tehachapi, Kern County, California. CCI is often referred to simply as “Tehachapi”. The facility has a capacity for 2,783, and a current population of 3,515 inmates, or 126% capacity, which falls in the middle range for California prisons that are overpopulated. CCI struggled with chronic overpopulation throughout the early 2000’s, which soared to almost 200% at times. During this period, several stabbings, beatings and riots were reported, due to rising tensions between gangs and extreme unrest due to the squalid living conditions and corruption of prison guards. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that overpopulation in the California Corrections system was so severe as to be unconstitutional, leading to changes in sentencing and parole laws. However, to this day, all but two prisons in California are still overpopulated.
The first women’s prison in California opened on what is now CCI in 1932, and was referred to often in popular movies and radio programs, particularly in the noir genre. Tehachapi women’s prison was mentioned in such classic films as The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, and The Postman Always Rings Twice. In 1952, the women’s facility was damaged in an earthquake, and the inmates were moved to the new Institution for Women in Corona. In 1954, the facility was rebuilt and reopened as a prison for men. In 1985, CCI built new medium and maximum security units. The Supermax facility was described as “the most advanced in the country”, but was also called a “white elephant” because it took so long to build and cost the state a tremendous amount of money.