Folsom State Prison (FSP)
This prison is located in the City of Folsom, twenty miles northeast of Sacramento. The prison is located next to the large Folsom Dam. It is the state’s second-oldest prison (opening in 1880), having been the first maximum security prison in California after the Gold Rush (1848).
The oldest prison is San Quentin, just outside San Francisco. Folsom is the first prison in California to have electricity, but this luxury at the time should not be misleading. Folsom was known as having some of the harshest conditions of California prisons, especially when it was a maximum security prison.
When it first opened in 1880, inmates spent most of their time in the dark in four foot by eight foot cells behind solid steel doors with six inch eye slats. Nowadays, it primarily houses medium security (Level II) prisoners, although it has housed death row inmates, too. 93 of its occupants were hanged there between 1895 and 1937, after which time inmates on death row went to the gas chamber at San Quentin. As might be expected, due to its harsh conditions and desperate inmates, there were numerous creative escape attempts and successes during this time.
The prison is best known for two concerts Johnny Cash famously played there for the inmates in the late 1960’s. More recently, the prison was famous for housing Suge Knight, Charles Manson, Erik Menendez and Timothy Leary. The prison has a metal shop, print shop and a quary. The rocks from the quarry were used to build the State Capitol in Sacramento. The prison also does make license plates, having done so since the 1930’s.