California Men's Colony

California Men's Colony (CMC) is a male-only state prison located near San Luis Obispo on the California coast, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It houses 3,838 minimum and medium-security inmates.

CMC has two physically separate facilities on its 356 acres, and they are named East and West. West is a minimum-security facility that has open dorms, while East houses level III inmates in individual cells.

This facility has often been called a, “garden spot,” or, “country club,” in the California prison system because it has a wide variety of educational programs, as well as psychological treatment programs.

Notable current and former inmates include: Christian Brando─the son of Marlon Brando─who was released in 1996 after serving five years for shooting his half-sister’s boyfriend. Charles Keating Jr. also spent time at CMC before his convictions were overturned.

Music mogul, Suge Knight, was incarcerated at CMC, and so was Timothy Leary and Ike Turner. Manson family members: Bobby Beausoleil, Bruce McGregor Davis, and Charles “Tex” Watson have all spent time at CMC.

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Visiting Hours and Rules

The visiting days at California Men's Colony are as follows: Saturdays, Sundays, and four holidays during each calendar year: New Year’s Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Visiting hours begin between 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and end between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. There is no time limit on visits.

To get more information about visits at CMC, you should:

  • Call the 800 Visitors’ Information number (800-374-8474) and follow the directions given on the recording; or,
  • Visit the CDCR website Click on Prisons, then select California Men's Colony

The 800 Visitors’ Information number and website are great sources of information on days and visiting hours at CMC, as well as information on lockdowns, medical quarantines, or other circumstances that affect visiting.

Before Visiting an inmate at CMC, we suggest the following:

  1. Read Visitation Guidelines to understand what you can expect and what is expected of you
  2. Make sure your friend or loved one is incarcerated at California Men's Colony
  3. Schedule a visit online using the VPASS system
  4. The day of your scheduled visit, check the Visiting Status to ensure the institution is accepting visitors

Getting Approved for a Visit

To visit an inmate at CMC, the first thing you need to do is get on the approved visiting list. To do this, ask them to mail you a signed visitor questionnaire that you will then fill out and mail in to the facility.

The inmate’s signature must be on the visiting application because that is how they agree to add you to the visiting list.

Mail the completed questionnaire to:

California Men's Colony
Visiting Sergeant
PO Box 1801
San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-1801

When you submit your questionnaire, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) will conduct a background check. They will deny approval to visit if the check indicates an arrest or conviction not listed on the questionnaire. So, be sure to fill it out completely, and be honest and thorough with your answers.

If you are approved to visit, the prisoner will be notified and then it is their job to notify you. Once you are approved, you are listed in the computer as being an approved visitor for that specific prisoner, and you do not need to bring any proof of approval with you to the prison.

If you are denied, you will receive a letter from the prison, and it will give you the specific reason for not being approved. The prisoner will also receive notice of the disapproval, but they will not be given the reason for denial.

Contact, Non-Contact, and Family Visits

Most prisoners are in general population and are allowed to have contact visits. During a contact visit, prisoners sit with their visitors in a large visiting room that has tables and chairs, and there are usually many other prisoners and visitors in the room.

When the visit begins and ends, you are allowed a brief hug and kiss, and you are allowed to hold hands during the visit.

The visiting room will have vending machines stocked with food and beverages for purchase by visitors and consumption by visitors and prisoners.

A visitor may not bring any food or beverage from the outside into the prison and cannot take out any food or beverage bought at the prison when he/she leaves. Vending machines usually have sodas, water, sandwiches (including burgers), and burritos, popcorn, candy, pastries, and coffee.

A limited number of board and card games are available for prisoners and their visitors to play together. These may include Scrabble, Dominoes, Uno, Checkers, and Chess.

Most prisons also have children books that prisoners can read to their minor visitors as well as religious materials from most major religions (the Bible, the Torah, the Koran).

The visiting room has digital cameras available for photographs of prisoners and/or their visitors to be taken. There is a cost for the photographs, usually two dollars for each photograph.

Contact visits are allowed a maximum of five visitors at a time.

Prisoners who are still in reception, segregation, or who are assigned to Behavior Management Units are allowed non-contact visits.

At a non-contact visit, there is a glass partition between the prisoner and their visitors. Prison staff will escort the prisoner in handcuffs, and the officer will remove the handcuffs when the prisoner is secured in their side of the visiting booth.

If you have children with you and do not want them to see the prisoner in restraints, you should wait away from the booth or glass partition until the prisoner is settled.

Non-contact visits are restricted to three visitors and there is a time limit, usually one to two hours.

Some prisoners at California Men's Colony are eligible for, “family visits.” These visits occur in private, apartment-like facilities on prison grounds and last approximately 30 to 40 hours.

Family visits are restricted to approved visitors who are immediate family members (parents, children, siblings, legal spouses, or registered domestic partners) of the prisoner. Family visits have limited availability, and an inmate can usually have one family visit every three to five months.

An eligible prisoner must put in an application for a family visit with their assigned Correctional Counselor at the prison.

General Visiting Rules

All adult visitors must have a current and valid photo ID in order to visit an inmate. Minors (children under 18 years old) are required to be accompanied by an adult who is an approved visitor.

To reduce the amount of time that you have to wait to be processed, schedule a visit in advance using the VPASS system. The wait times are usually longer first thing in the morning.

The only items you can bring into a visit are:

  • A $50 limit per adult and $20 limit per minor to use at the vending machines, and you can only bring dollar bills, dollar coins, or quarters
  • A small clear, plastic purse or bag
  • Two keys on a ring with no other attachments
  • Photo Identification
  • A non-metallic comb or brush
  • A small unopened pack of tissues or a handkerchief; no bandanas
  • A pair of prescription glasses
  • Ten Photos
  • Documents up to 10 pages

The following baby items are allowed when you are bringing in an infant or toddler:

  • Any combination of two, factory-sealed, single serving size, ready to feed bottles of baby formula, or two, transparent, plastic baby bottles either empty or containing pre-mixed formula/milk/juice/water
  • Three non-glass containers of baby food in sealed packaging
  • One plastic spoon
  • Six disposable diapers
  • One sealed package of baby wipes
  • One change of clothing
  • One small blanket
  • Two searchable small toys
  • One transparent pacifier
  • One burp cloth
  • Baby carrier
  • One clear plastic diaper bag (12” by 20”)

Dress Code

There are restrictions on what you may wear to a prison, and these are the four major rules to remember:

  • Do not wear clothing that resembles what the prisoners wear
  • Do not wear clothing that resembles what officers wear
  • Dress conservatively and modestly
  • Do not wear any item that cannot be taken off and will not clear a metal detector (such as an underwire bra or clothing with metal buttons).

Physical Address

Colony Dr,
San Luis Obispo, CA 93409

Driving Directions:

General Phone Number

​(805) 547-7900

Inmate Mailing Address(es)

California Men's Colony
Inmate name and CDCR number
P.O. Box 8103
San Luis Obispo, CA 93409-8103

All mail should be addressed to the prisoner with his/her full name, his/her CDCR number, his/her housing, and the address of the prison.

Prison staff opens and inspects all mail sent to prisoners to make sure that it doesn’t contain contraband.

You may send prisoners letters (not more than 10 pages in one envelope), cards (without stickers or glitter), photographs (limited to 10 per envelope and no larger than 8” x 10”), drawings, children’s schoolwork, articles cut from newspapers or magazines, etc.

You can’t send books, magazines, newspapers, or packages directly to an inmate. Instead, you must send those through approved vendors.

You may enclose a money order or check in an envelope sent to a prisoner. Mailroom staff will take the money order or check out when the mail is inspected and send it to trust accounts, where it will be credited to the prisoner’s account.

How to Call an Inmate

Family and friends cannot call prisoners at CMC; prisoners must call to speak to someone outside the prison. The prisoners use designated phones that make collect calls to a landline or cell phones. The called party is responsible for paying for the calls. For complete details on how to call an inmate in California, please click here.

How to Send Money

Before sending money to an inmate at California Men's Colony:

There are three ways to send money to an inmate:

  1. Lock Box
  2. EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer)
  3. Mail funds directly to the inmate

There is a 30-day hold on the money when you mail it directly to the institution, EFT is available within one to three days, and the lockbox method depends based on sending a check or money order.

To get complete details about the different ways to send money to an inmate at California Men's Colony, click here.

​Programs For ​Inmates

  • PIA: Textile products including a glove factory, jacket line, T-shirt line, and silk screening; Knitting Mill, Laundry, Shoe Factory, Specialty Printing Plant, NOMEX firefighting clothing, Maintenance and Warehouse. 
  • Vocational: Auto body repair, auto mechanics, electronics, machine shop, welding, office technology, building maintenance.
  • Academic: Adult Basic Education, GED, Literacy Program.
  • Other: Substance Abuse Program (SAP), Community Service Crews, Youth Diversion, Religious, Arts in Corrections, Victim Awareness, Drug and Alcohol Treatment/Diversion, Alternatives to Violence, Anger Management, Hospice, Criminal and Gangs Anonymous, Literacy Council, Prisoner’s Against Child Abuse (PACA), Personal Growth Seminar.

Hospice Program

The CMC is the second institution in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to offer a hospice program to the inmate population. The program has trained over 100 inmate volunteers since its inception at CMC in 2001.  

There are currently 61 volunteer inmates who have completed the training program and are available to visit terminally ill inmates that are housed in the institution hospital. These volunteers are also available to the general population inmates during a monthly memorial service to assist them in their grief of family members who have passed while incarcerated.  

The training was developed and presented by local hospice staff, to closely match training offered to volunteers within the community. According to volunteer inmates and inmate recipients of hospice care, the program is of great value on both sides of this very critical issue.

Pictures of California Men's Colony

Careers at California Men's Colony

If you are interested in a job at California Men's Colony, please visit the CalCareers website to view available positions.