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Where is Folsom Prison?

Folsom Prison is a well-known correctional facility in California that has a long and notorious history. It has been immortalized in books, films, and music over the years. If you’re curious about where Folsom Prison is actually located, this article will provide the details. We’ll look at the history of the prison, its notoriety in popular culture, and its exact location in California.

History of Folsom Prison

Folsom Prison was established in 1880, just north of Sacramento, California. It was the second prison built in the state after San Quentin. The prison was named after Captain Joseph Folsom, who selected the site for the prison. Folsom had surveyed the area for a potential railroad and determined that the site would be ideal for a branch prison.

At the time, convict labor was seen as an important way to build up infrastructure in California. Prisoners at Folsom constructed most of the prison themselves. They also provided labor for other state building projects. The prison eventually included a power plant, a reservoir, and a granite quarry.

Over the years, Folsom developed a reputation for being tough, violent, and dangerous. Several riots broke out in the early years. Conditions for prisoners were harsh. However, in more recent decades reforms have been made to improve conditions.

Notable Events in Folsom’s History

  • 1880: Prison established with construction by prisoners.
  • 1886: Major riot with shots fired into prisoner housing units.
  • 1927: Mess hall wing added to facility.
  • 1936: First execution by gas chamber conducted.
  • 1944: Attempted prison break results in death of Warden Clarence Larkin.
  • 1968: Folsom associated with Johnny Cash’s iconic live album recorded at the prison.
  • 1982: Major riot destroys much of facility; new Folsom built nearby.
  • 2018: New execution chamber completed, replacing old gas chamber.
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Folsom is now over 140 years old and remains an active part of the California state prison system. Let’s look closer at its exact location.

Folsom Prison’s Location

Folsom Prison is located in Represa, California, approximately 20 miles northeast of Sacramento. The address of the facility is:

300 Prison Road
Represa, CA 95671

The prison is situated just west of Folsom Lake. It sits next to the American River.

Originally, the prison was on land that was mostly undeveloped. However, over the years the larger Sacramento area expanded, and the communities of Folsom, Orangevale, and Fair Oaks have grown around the prison site.

While the Folsom community near the prison took the name of the infamous correctional facility, the area is now a fast-growing Sacramento suburb that is home to many families and professionals working in California’s state capital.

The Modern Folsom Prison Complex

The original Folsom Prison structure built in the late 1800s no longer stands. In 1934, the main cell house was constructed, featuring five tiers of cells rising above the interior open area. However, in 1937, a major flood damaged much of the prison.

After a 1982 riot, a new Folsom Prison was built adjacent to the old site. This newer structure opened in 1986 and features advanced security features and an execution chamber.

The modern Folsom Prison complex contains the following facilities:

  • Folsom State Prison (CSP-SAC)
  • California State Prison, Sacramento (SAC)
  • Folsom Women’s Facility
  • California Correctional Training Facility

So while the iconic Folsom Prison was replaced in the 1980s, the new facilities continue operating on the same grounds along Prison Road near Represa. Folsom remains a major state prison operation at the original site.

Folsom Prison’s Notoriety in Pop Culture

Folsom Prison has appeared frequently in literature, film, and music, often depicting the harsh conditions and violent tendencies of the inmates. Some examples include:

  • Johnny Cash’s hit song “Folsom Prison Blues” brought the prison nation-wide notoriety in the 1950s. Cash later recorded a live album at Folsom in 1968.
  • The 1955 book and 1958 movie “The Lineup” featured Folsom and San Quentin as dark backdrops.
  • In the film “American Me” from 1992, Folsom was depicted as home to warring prison gangs.
  • Members of seminal punk bands like TSOL and Fang served time in Folsom, associating their rebellious music with the prison.
  • More recently, the dramatic series Prison Break referenced Folsom Prison starting in season 2 of the show.
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Folsom Prison has clearly left a major mark on American media and culture. While conditions have improved over the decades, it still has a notorious reputation tied to its long, difficult past in California’s prison system.

Visiting Folsom Prison

If you want to see Folsom Prison in person, you can take a guided tour of the facility. Tours are offered each Saturday, with no reservations required.

The address for tours is:

300 Prison Road
Represa, CA 95671

Tours begin at 8:30am and last around 3 hours. Visitors must be 18 years or older and provide a valid government-issued photo ID. Tour participants are subject to a security screening. No cameras or purses are allowed during the tour.

Tickets cost $15 per person and can only be purchased on the day of the tour, not in advance. Visitors should arrive early, as space on tours is first come, first served.

The guided tour takes visitors through the prison museum, notable sites around the grounds, and into a cell block. However, the notorious East Block where Johnny Cash performed is no longer used for housing. If you want to get a one-of-a-kind look inside this famous prison, a tour is highly recommended.

What kinds of inmates are housed at Folsom today?

Folsom houses male inmates only, serving long-term sentences. Custody levels range from minimum to maximum security. There are around 2,100 prisoners at Folsom’s facilities.

How long do most prisoners serve at Folsom before being paroled or released?

Sentences served at Folsom vary greatly but are predominantly long-term. Some inmates serve 10 years to life sentences. The average length of stay is around 17.5 years.

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Have any famous criminals served time in Folsom?

Some well-known inmates of Folsom have included Charles Manson, serving time in the late 1950s for attempted armed robbery. Serial killer Edmund Kemper also requested to be imprisoned at Folsom in the 1970s.

How many executions have taken place at Folsom?

Since 1893, Folsom Prison has carried out a total of 93 executions by hanging or lethal gas, until the practice was ended in California. No prisoners have been executed since 2006 in the state.

Is Folsom Prison still as harsh and violent as its reputation suggests?

While Folsom certainly had a dark, violent past, today rehabilitation and education programs focus on effectively transitioning inmates back into society after their sentences. Guards and prisoners both report much safer conditions.


Folsom Prison has been a major part of California’s history for over 140 years. It was established in 1880 as the second state prison, using convict labor to build out facilities. Over the decades, multiple riots, famous inmates like Manson, and pop culture portrayals solidified Folsom’s notorious reputation.

Today, the aging facility has been replaced by a more modern prison complex that continues to operate along Prison Road in Represa. The community of Folsom near Sacramento retains the prison’s infamous name. While no longer as violent as in the past, Folsom still offers a unique look at California’s prison history through tours of the grounds and museum.

Whether you want to visit the famous prison yourself or just learn more about its past, Folsom’s lasting legacy in American criminal justice and pop culture is undeniable. This closer look at its long history and exact location provides interesting context on this iconic California correctional institution.CopyRetry

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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