Central California Women's Facility

Central California Women's Facility (CCWF) is a female-only California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation state prison located in Chowchilla, California.[2] It is across the road from Valley State Prison. CCWF is the second largest female correctional facility in the United States,[3] and houses the only State of California death row for women.

Central California Women's Facility (CCWF)
LocationChowchilla, California
Coordinates37°05′35″N 120°09′11″W / 37.093°N 120.153°W / 37.093; -120.153
Security classMinimum-maximum
Population2,178 (108.6% capacity) (as of July 31, 2022[1])
OpenedOctober 1990
Managed byCalifornia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation


Location of Chowchilla in Madera County, and Madera County in California

CCWF covers 640 acres (260 ha). As of Fiscal Year 2006/2007, CCWF had a total of 1,205 staff and an annual operating budget of US$138 million.

As of April 30, 2020, CCWF was incarcerating people at 131.7% of its design capacity, with 2,640 occupants.[4]

CCWF holds prisoners at all security levels:[3][5]

  • Reception Center (RC) – provides short term housing to process, classify and evaluate incoming inmates

Level I through Level IV are all housed together inside a 32-room housing unit. There are 256 inmates of all levels housed together with only two Correctional Officers. On the Reception Yard there are 276 inmates per housing unit of unclassified inmates supervised by only two officers.

  • Condemned (Cond) housing – holds inmates with death sentences

The prison provides inmate academic education, vocational training, counseling and specialized programs for the purpose of successful reintegration into society.[3]

The Center for Restorative Justice (CRJW) Family Express program, provides weekly transportation for family members from major California cities to visit prisoners at the facility.


The Madera County board of supervisors gave the prison its current name in 1989 "after months of discussion and disagreement."[6] CCWF opened in October 1990, having cost $141 million to construct.[7]

In 1996, the City of Chowchilla was given permission to perform a "non-contiguous annexation" of CCWF.[8]

Starting in April 2007, CCWF received some inmates from California Rehabilitation Center after closure of the women's wing at that prison.[9] The population at CCWF "swelled by 8 percent."[9]

There have been controversies surrounding healthcare and health standards at the CCWF over the years. Including but not limited to the following events:

  • In June 1991, an inmate died; some inmates "refused to report to their prison jobs" to protest the prison's medical care "which they said was linked to the death."[10] Later, an autopsy was conducted to show that the inmate "died of acute inflammation of the pancreas," not "an overdose of the tranquilizer Haldol" as some inmates believed.[11]
  • Over 100 protesters outside the prison in January 1994 alleged that CCWF "failed to provide a medical specialist and educational programs to deal with HIV/AIDS-infected inmates," and that CCWF's healthcare providers "often ignore inmate ailments and provide little or no follow-up examinations."[12]
  • An April 1995 class action lawsuit against CCWF and California Institution for Women "allege[d] that inmates suffer terribly and in some cases die because of inadequate medical care."[13] A 1997 settlement agreement led to two reports showing "improvements" in health care for female prisoners, but plaintiffs' lawyers claimed that "the changes deal[t] mostly with medical records, not actual care."[14]
  • From July to November 1996, a private laboratory billed CCWF $161,000 "for thousands of medical tests, including Pap smears to detect cervical cancer, HIV tests, biopsies and urinalyses" even though the tests had never been used on the inmates.[15] At least six other prisons also used the laboratory.[15] Although the State of California closed the laboratory in 1997, a 2000 newspaper investigation found that there was "little evidence of any attempt by the California Department of Corrections to retest inmates or notify them that their test results were faked."[15]
  • In 1999, an inmate with "hepatitis C and liver disease" died after being "prescribed anti-TB medications known to be toxic to patients with liver disease."[16] A wrongful-death lawsuit based on the case was "settled for $225,000" in 2002.[16]
  • In the "month and a half" prior to December 20, 2000, seven CCWF inmates died.[17] Of these, four "apparently succumbed to chronic terminal illnesses," but an advocacy group claimed that the deaths "were precipitated by inadequate care."[17] The other three "died suddenly and unexpectedly," which led to autopsies being performed.[17] As a result, the three causes of death were determined to be "heart problems and natural causes," "a severe asthma attack and chok[ing] on her vomit after a routine strip search," and "clogged arteries and an enlarged heart."[18] Nevertheless, "relatives of the three women" and a physician from the University of California, San Francisco "who reviewed their deaths" held the opinion that "better health care could have saved their lives."[18]
  • A hospice program was started at CCWF in the summer of 2000, but by mid-2001 was "seldom" used.[19] One possible explanation was a low amount of funding compared with the men's hospice at California Medical Facility; another possible explanation was CCWF's granting "compassionate releases to dying inmates who otherwise might enter the program."[19]
  • In December 2003, seven CCWF inmates sued seven physicians and "several nurses" for "malpractice, negligence and unprofessional conduct."[20]
  • In February 2007, the California Office of the Inspector General concluded "Numerous studies show that despite an annual cost of $36 million, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s in-prison substance abuse treatment programs have little or no impact on recidivism."[21] The report specifically mentioned the "New Choice female felon program" at CCWF, for which "12-month recidivism rates... were lower for non-participants than for participants."[21]


As of 2007, of the prison guards, 31% were women. 19% of sergeants were women, and less than 1% of lieutenants are women.[22]

Notable inmatesEdit

Death rowEdit

After Governor Pete Wilson decreed in December 1991 that CCWF shall hold all female death row inmates in California, Maureen McDermott became the first death row inmate at CCWF.[23][24] She was the first woman sentenced to death in a period of several decades, and at one period, she was the only person in the unit.[25] Initially a set of nine cells in the 504 building, a two story building for difficult to manage and maximum security prisoners, served as the women's death row.

The death row inmates' names (with years of sentencing) are:[26]

  • Rosie Alfaro (sentenced 1992)
  • Socorro Caro (2002)
  • Celeste Simone Carrington (1994)
  • Cynthia Coffman (1989)
  • Kerry Lyn Dalton (1995)
  • Susan Eubanks (1999)
  • Veronica Gonzales (1998)
  • Cherie Lash-Rhoades (2018)
  • Belinda Magana (2015)
  • Maureen McDermott (1990)
  • Michelle Lyn Michaud (2002)
  • Valerie Dee Martin (2010)
  • Tanya Nelson (2010)
  • Angelina Rodriguez (2004)
  • Brooke Rottiers (2010)
  • Mary Ellen Samuels (1994)
  • Cathy Lynn Sarinana (2009)
  • Janeen Marie Snyder (2006)
  • Manling Tsang Williams (Chinese: 曾玫琳; Jyutping: cang4 mui4 lam4; pinyin: Zēng Méilín) (2011)[27]
  • Jessica Marie Hann (2014)

Current and former inmatesEdit

  • Jeena Han, was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison for attempted murder and false imprisonment of her twin sister Sunny Han to assume her identity and leave the country. She was released on parole in May 2018.
  • Nikki Charm, porn star, for auto theft and burglary. Sentenced for five years in 2002.
  • Helen L. Golay, whose crimes committed in 1999 and 2005 in Los Angeles County became known as Black Widow murders. She is serving life in prison without possibility of parole.
  • Jennifer Lynn Henderson, aka Jennifer DeLeon, convicted in 2006, serving two consecutive sentences of life without parole for the Murder of Thomas and Jackie Hawks, a retired couple killed as part of a conspiracy to steal their yacht and bank accounts.
  • Marjorie Knoller was released from CCWF and sent to Ventura County on parole in January 2004.[28][29][30][31] She had reportedly just served "about 16 months" at Valley State Prison for Women.[32]
  • Sara Kruzan is a victim of human trafficking and a convicted murderer. In 1994, at the age of 16, she was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole after being convicted of murdering her pimp;[33] in January 2011, outgoing governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted her sentence to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole.[34] In January 2013, her conviction was reduced to 2nd degree manslaughter and her sentence to 19 years, making her eligible for parole. A parole hearing was conducted June 12, 2013; she was found suitable for parole and released on October 31, 2013.
  • Omaima Nelson, an Egyptian woman who castrated and murdered her husband, dismembered his body and cooked his body parts, allegedly consuming his ribs.[35] She was later transferred at California Institution for Women.[36]
  • Ellie Nesler was first imprisoned at CCWF for a 10-year sentence beginning in January 1994.[37] During her stay, she received treatment for breast cancer.[38] She was released in October 1997 after a plea bargain.[39][40] She was again at CCWF between 2002 and June 2006 to "serve a sentence for selling drugs."[41]
  • Catherine Kieu, convicted in 2013 for spousal abuse and false imprisonment, including mutilating her husband's genitals.
  • Kristin Rossum, currently serving a life sentence in California for poisoning her husband Greg deVillers with fentanyl she stole from her job and attempting to pass off his death as a suicide, made famous from the crime show Snapped as well as other media.[42]
  • Judy Wong, former mayor and first Chinese-American councilmember from the City of Temple City, California. Pleaded no-contest to corruption charges and accepted a prison sentence for her role in a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving developers. Released from prison May 17, 2011.
  • Nancy Garrido, who kidnapped Jaycee Dugard in 1991. She is serving 36 years to life imprisonment.[43]
  • Dana Sue Gray, convicted of killing three elderly women in 1994. Gray was sentenced on October 16, 1998, and is serving life without the possibility of parole.
  • Larissa Schuster, sentenced to life in prison without parole for submerging her husband's body in hydrochloric acid.
  • Melissa Huckaby, sentenced to life without parole for murdering 8 year old Sandra Cantu.
  • Julia Rodriquez Diaz, first female inmate to receive 15 years parole denial under Proposition 9, also known as Marsy's Law. Convicted in July 1979 for the murder of 7-year-old boy, Javier Angel. Featured in a 2013 episode of Deadly Women entitled "Heartless Souls"
  • Louise Turpin, sentenced to life with 25 years before parole along with her husband David for holding 12 of their 13 children captive, during which time they were abused, starved and tortured
  • Suzan Carson, convicted serial killer serving 75 years to life for the murder of three people.
  • Pearl Fernandez, sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the torture and murder of her son Gabriel.
  • Diane Downs, convicted of murdering her 3 children serving life plus 50 years.
  • Tylar Witt, convicted in 2011 for the 2009 murder of her mother, Joanne Witt, and sentenced to 15 years to life


  • Susan Atkins, an associate of Charles Manson, was transferred to CCWF on September 24, 2008, with a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer.[44] She died at CCWF on September 24, 2009.[45]
  • Dorothea Puente "was convicted in 1993 on five counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole" at CCWF.[46] She died at CCWF in March 2011.[47]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Monthly Report of Population As of Midnight July 31, 2022" (PDF). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Internal Oversight and Research. July 31, 2022. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 5, 2022. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
  2. ^ "Chowchilla City, California". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved May 10, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c "Mission Statement". Central California Women's Facility (CCWF). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  4. ^ "California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Monthly Report of Population As of Midnight April 30, 2020" (PDF). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Internal Oversight and Research. April 30, 2020. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 3, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  5. ^ "California's Correctional Facilities" (PDF). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 22 Dec 2007.
  6. ^ Lopez, Pablo (September 6, 1989). "Madera County Board Names Women's Prison". Fresno Bee.
  7. ^ Christensen, Kim (September 30, 1990). "New Madera women's prison to open. But facility won't ease overcrowding at Frontera by much". Orange County Register.
  8. ^ General Plan Update, Introduction and Preface, Discussion Draft (PDF). General Plan (Report). City of Chowchilla. July 20, 2005.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ a b Schultz, E.J. (July 9, 2007). "Female inmates: Jammed behind bars? Chowchilla lockups are at more than double their capacity, provoking health concerns". Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on 2007-05-28. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  10. ^ McCarthy, Charles (July 3, 1991). "Prisoners Strike to Protest Health Care. An Inmate's Death Prompts a Two-Day Demonstration at Chowchilla Women's Prison". Fresno Bee.
  11. ^ McCarthy, Charles (July 19, 1991). "Disease Blamed for Death of Tranquilized Inmate". Fresno Bee.
  12. ^ Medina, M. Cristina (January 30, 1994). "Protesters Say Prison Health Care Inadequate. Demonstrators at the Central California Women's Facility at Chowchilla Say Little is Done for HIV/AIDS-Infected Inmates". Fresno Bee.
  13. ^ Sward, Susan; Wallace, Bill (April 5, 1995). "Female Inmates Sue State Prisons. Neglect of health care cited". San Francisco Chronicle.
  14. ^ Vitucci, Claire (December 22, 1999). "Report finds improvements to inmate care: But women's health services still substandard, lawyers say". Press-Enterprise. Riverside, CA.
  15. ^ a b c Russell, Sabin (July 6, 2000). "State Fumbles Prison Lab Testing. Company's fake results may never have been corrected". San Francisco Chronicle.
  16. ^ a b McCarthy, Charles (June 14, 2002). "Kin, Chowchilla prison settle in inmate's death". Fresno Bee.
  17. ^ a b c Russell, Sabin (December 20, 2000). "2 More Die At Women's Prison in Chowchilla. 3 of 7 recent deaths under investigation". San Francisco Chronicle.
  18. ^ a b Leedy, Matt (April 6, 2001). "Heart Attack Killed Inmate. Stanford U. Doctors Back Earlier Findings in Chowchilla Case". Fresno Bee.
  19. ^ a b Leedy, Matt (April 14, 2001). "Chowchilla Prison Hospice a Developing Cocoon. Dying Inmates Seldom Have Used the New Facility". Fresno Bee.
  20. ^ Aleman-Padilla, Lisa (December 19, 2003). "Inmates sue over medical services – Seven in Chowchilla allege they didn't get adequate treatment". Fresno Bee.
  21. ^ a b Special Review Into In-Prison Substance Abuse Programs Managed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (PDF) (Report). Office of the Inspector General, State of California. February 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-13. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  22. ^ Talvi, Silja (2007). Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the U.S. Prison System. Emeryville: Seal Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780786750795.
  23. ^ McCarthy, Charles (December 16, 1991). "Women's Death Row is Created – Inmate Waits to Die in Madera County". Daily News of Los Angeles.
  24. ^ Wilson, Wayne (September 14, 1993). "Four Await Fate at Hands of State on Women's Death Row". Sacramento Bee.
  25. ^ Corwin, Miles (April 19, 1992). "Death's Door: State's Only Condemned Woman Awaits Her Fate". Los Angeles Times.
  26. ^ Streib, Victor L. "Death Penalty for Female Offenders, January 1, 1973, Through June 30, 2007.] July 13, 2007" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 15, 2007. Retrieved December 26, 2007.
  27. ^ "曾女杀夫与子 陪审团建议死刑]". Sina Network. August 10, 2011. Retrieved January 29, 2016.
  28. ^ Parrilla, Leslie (January 3, 2004). "Parolee in fatal dog-mauling case moves to Ventura County". Ventura County Star.
  29. ^ Cavanaugh, Andrea (January 3, 2004). "Parolee's Plans Unknown – San Francisco Woman Convicted in Dog Mauling Sent to Ventura County". Daily News of Los Angeles.
  30. ^ Booth, Claire (January 3, 2004). "Knoller Paroled In Dog-Mauling Death – Sent To Southern California, She Must Find A Job But Can't Practice Law". Contra Costa Times.
  31. ^ "Woman imprisoned in dog mauling case is released". Daily Breeze. Torrance, CA. Associated Press. January 3, 2004.
  32. ^ Malnic, Eric (January 1, 2004). "Owner of Killer Dogs to Go Free; The woman convicted in the fatal S.F. mauling will be paroled to the Southland. Her husband was paroled to Northern California". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
  33. ^ Macallair, Daniel (January 20, 2008). "U.S. among harshest for sentencing children". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
  34. ^ "Editorial. All the Sara Kruzans deserve a chance". Los Angeles Times. January 4, 2011. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
  35. ^ "California woman who killed, cooked husband denied parole". 2011-10-06.
  36. ^ "CDCR Inmate Locator: Omaima Nelson". Retrieved 3 August 2022.
  37. ^ Frank, Russell (January 26, 1994). "Nesler Lawyers to Ask Again for Bail". Modesto Bee.
  38. ^ Rafferty, Carole (October 9, 1994). "Hailed as an Avenging Hero 18 Months Ago, Ellie Nesler Adjusts to Prison Life as She Confronts Disease and the Consequences of her Actions. Ellie Nesler: A Mother's Regret". San Jose Mercury News.
  39. ^ Reed, Dan (September 29, 1997). "Killer of Molester Due to Go Free. Friends Await Nesler Release". San Jose Mercury News.
  40. ^ Ryan, Joan (October 2, 1997). "Chastened Ellie Nesler Freed. Plea bargain in slaying of alleged molester". San Francisco Chronicle.
  41. ^ "Woman Who Shot Man in Courtroom Freed". San Jose Mercury News. June 6, 2006.
  42. ^ "Damages in Murder Case Cut by Judge". Los Angeles Times. June 19, 2006.
  43. ^ "Phillip, Nancy Garrido start prison sentences for Dugard kidnap". KABC-TV. June 17, 2011. Archived from the original on September 2, 2011. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  44. ^ De Atley, Richard K (2008-11-21). "Ailing Manson follower transferred to Chowchilla facility". Press-Enterprise. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2009-09-25.
  45. ^ Woo, Elaine (2009-09-26). "Charles Manson follower Susan Atkins dies at 61". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-03-27.
  46. ^ Wiley, Walt (June 11, 2004). "New charm graces house where Puente once killed". Sacramento Bee.
  47. ^ Connell, Rich (March 28, 2011). "Dorothea Puente, Boarding House Operator Who Killed Tenants, Dies at 82". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 27, 2011.

External linksEdit