Pelican Bay State Prison

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White background with a gold seven-pointed star in the middle. Inside the star is a circular image of a pelican by the sea, and surrounding that image is circles of yellow, blue, and red. On the blue innermost circular border is small, curving yellow text. On the red border outside of that is larger curving yellow text. On the points of the star is a brown triangular leaf shaped pattern.

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Pelican Bay State Prison is California’s only super-maximum security prison. Established in 1989, it is located on two-hundred and seventy-five acres in northern California, close to the Oregon border. The prison is divided into two security settings. The first half includes maximum security prisoners in a general population (GP) setup. The second, Security Housing Unit (SHU), includes inmates who have “serious management concerns.” The prison in April of 2020 had 2,608 inmates and was running at 109.6% capacity. The prison has held some well-known, infamous criminals such as Joseph DeAngelo, the “Golden State Killer,” and Charles Manson.

Around forty percent of inmates at the prison are serving life sentences, and many inmates are sent to the prison after committing a crime in a different state prison. Inmates in the Security Housing Unit are kept confined for 23 hours a day in concrete cells eight by ten feet in size. There are no windows in the cells, and inmates are allowed to exercise outside of their cells for one hour a day in a small concrete yard. Around 30,000 inmates were involved in a hunger strike in 2013 to protest prison conditions, especially indefinite solitary confinement. After the following lawsuit, changes were made, and limits were placed on solitary confinement. In 2017, Oprah Winfrey visited the prison and spoke with several inmates.


Monthly Report of Population. (2020). Retrieved 21 April 2021, from…

Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) - California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Retrieved 21 April 2021, from

Queally, J. (2015). Peek inside 'the SHU': What it's like for California inmates in solitary confinement. Retrieved 21 April 2021, from…

Reforming solitary confinement at an infamous California prison. (2018). Retrieved 21 April 2021, from…

Wood, R. (2020). Supermax jail tipped to hold 'Golden State Killer'. Retrieved 21 April 2021, from…

Catalog ID AD1024