California State Prison - Centinela

California State Prison - Centinela is a male-only state prison located in Imperial County, California, that houses inmates of all security levels, from minimum to maximum-security. It sits on 2,000 acres and features a razor-wire cinder block and chain link fence on the perimeter with armed guards. There is also an electrified fence with razor-wire at the top.

Also known as Centinela State Prison, this facility has a capacity of 2,308 inmates, but currently houses more than 3,000 prisoners (as of 2019).

This facility includes a Correctional Treatment Center, ADSEG (Administrative Segregation or “the hole”), and a firehouse which houses minimum-security inmates who are trained as structural and wildland firefighters. As part of their rehabilitation, the inmates in the firehouse receive state fire certification.

This facility also has an Institutional Hearing Program, which is a program for inmates who are illegal immigrants. These inmates are returned to their home countries through US Immigration and Naturalization Services.

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California State Prison - Centinela

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Visiting Hours and Rules

The visiting hours at California State Prison, Centinela are on Saturdays, Sundays, and four holidays: New Year’s Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Visits begin between 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and end around 3:00 p.m.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has an 800 Visitor’s Information number that will give you detailed information about visits at Centinela.

  • The 800 Visitor’s Information Number is 1-800-374-8474, and all you need to do is follow the directions on the recording.
  • They also have information on their website Click on Prisons, and then click on California State Prison, Centinela. 

Both the 800 Visitors’ Information number and website will give you detailed information on visits, as well as updates on lockdowns, medical quarantines, or other circumstances that affect visiting.

To answer all of the questions you might have about visiting an inmate at Centinela, the CDCR has put together a detailed Visitation Guidebook. We highly recommend that you read through all 28 pages, so you understand what to expect when you visit an inmate, as well as what is expected of you.

We also recommend that you schedule a visit in advance online using the  VPASS system. This will reduce your wait time, and guarantee you a spot in the visiting room. On the day of your scheduled visit, you can check Centinela’s visiting status to make sure they are accepting visitors that day.

Getting Approved for a Visit

Before visiting an inmate at Centinela - or any other California state prison - you must get approval. The process begins by completing a visitor questionnaire, but you can only get this questionnaire by having the prisoner you wish to visit mail it to you.

Make sure the prisoner signs the questionnaire before sending it to you because their signature confirms the prisoner’s agreement to have you added to their visiting list.

You must fill out the questionnaire completely and accurately or you could be denied. The CDCR will conduct a background check for arrests and convictions when processing the application, and they will deny approval to visit if the check indicates an arrest or conviction not listed on the questionnaire, so you should be thorough when completing the form.

Mail the completed questionnaire to:

California State Prison, Centinela
Visiting Sergeant
PO Box 731
Imperial, CA 92251-0731

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 on the day of your visit.

If you are denied, you will receive a letter from the prison giving the reason for disapproval, and the prisoner will also receive notice of the disapproval but will not be given the reason.

Basic Visiting Rules

Inmates in general population are allowed contact visits. Inmates in ADSEG are allowed non-contact visits with a glass partition in between the inmate and the visitors.

All adult visitors must have photo identification when being processed to visit. Only identification that is valid and current will be accepted.

Minors (children under 18 years old) are required to be accompanied by an adult who is an approved visitor.

There will be a wait from the time you arrive at the prison to the time you are processed to visit. Typical wait times for processing are not excessive. However, on occasion may be as long as two hours, depending on the number of visitors, the time of day, and conditions of processing (including the size of the processing center, the number of staff, and the speed of processing).

Scheduling a visit in advance with the VPASS system will significantly reduce your wait time.

These are the items your allowed to bring into a visit:

  • Up to $50 (per adult) up to $20 (per minor) You can only bring dollar bills, dollar coins, or quarters (change machines are usually available, but they may be out of order or out of change)
  • A small clear, plastic purse or bag
  • Two keys on a ring with no other attachments
  • Photo Identification
  • A comb or brush; non-metallic, no pointed end or detachable parts
  • A small unopened pack of tissues or a handkerchief; no bandannas
  • A pair of prescription glasses
  • Ten Photographs, no larger than 8” by 10” (You can show photos to the prisoner, but you have to take them with you at the end of the visit). No Polaroids and no sexual or gang images. The staff will look at the photos during processing.
  • Documents up to 10 pages, no larger than 8-1/2” by 11” (standard size typing paper). The staff will view and read the documents during processing and you must take them with you at the end of the visit.

The following baby items are allowed when you are bringing 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 for a visit, and you can find a detailed list in the Inmate Visiting Guidelines. In general, there are four things to remember:

1. Do not wear clothing that resembles the clothing that prisoners wear

2. Do not wear clothing that resembles what custodial staff wear

3. Dress conservatively and modestly

4. 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

Centinela State Prison
2302 Brown Road
Imperial, CA 92251

Driving Directions:

General Phone Number

​(760) 337-7900

Inmate Mailing Address(es)

When addressing inmate mail, always include the Institution’s name, the inmate’s name, and their CDCR number.

California State Prison, Centinela
Inmate Name and CDCR Number
A Yard
PO Box 901
Imperial, CA 92251-0901

California State Prison, Centinela
Inmate Name and CDCR Number
B Yard
PO Box 911
Imperial, CA 92251-0911

California State Prison, Centinela
Inmate Name and CDCR Number
C Yard
PO Box 921
Imperial, CA 92251-0921

California State Prison, Centinela
Inmate Name and CDCR Number
D Yard
PO Box 931
Imperial, CA 92251-0931
California State Prison, Centinela
Inmate Name and CDCR Number
E Yard
PO Box 1011
Imperial, CA 92251-1011

All mail sent to prisoners is inspected to make sure that there is nothing unacceptable in the envelope and to ensure that the content does not contain anything that presents a danger or threat of danger to any person.

That means that any mail sent to the prisoner is opened by mailroom staff before it is given to an inmate.

You may send prisoners letters (not more than 10 pages in one envelope), cards (without embellishments such as stickers or glitter), photographs (limited to 10 per envelope and not larger than 8” x 10”), drawings, children’s schoolwork, articles cut from newspapers or magazines, etc.

You may not send the following directly to a prisoner: books, magazines, newspapers, or packages. Instead, you must send those through approved vendors.

How to Call an Inmate

You can’t call an inmate at California State Prison, Centinela. However, they do have access to telephones during daytime hours, and can call you collect, or with money on their personal accounts. 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 State Prison, Centinela:

There are three ways to send money to an inmate:

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

California State Prison, Centinela
P.O. Box 731
Imperial, CA 92251-0731

To get complete details about the different ways to send money to an inmate at California State Prison, Centinela, click here.

​Programs For ​Inmates

  • Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment that teaches inmates how to identify and change destructive thought patterns, which have a negative influence on behavior.

  • Long-Term Offender Program (LTOP)

The Long-Term Offender Program (LTOP) is a voluntary program that provides evidenced-based programming to inmates who are subject to the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) parole suitability process. The goal of the LTOP is to provide Cognitive Behavioral Treatment to address criminogenic needs and risk, thereby reducing the likelihood of reoffending. Services are provided in both individual and group settings to address the following major criminogenic areas: Anger Management, Criminal Thinking, Denial Management, Family Relationships, Substance Use Disorder Treatment, Victim Impact

  • Vocational: Electrical, Office Services/Related Technologies (OSRT), Building Maintenance, Small Engine Repair, Auto Body, Auto Mechanics, Electronics, Roofing and Welding
  • Academic: Adult Basic Education (ABE I, ABE II, ABE III), GED, Voluntary Education Program (VEP), Independent Study and Literacy Lab.
  • Service Crews
  • Religious programs for all Faiths
  • Alternatives to Violence Programs
  • Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous
  • Creative Conflict Resolution Workshops
  • Life Without a Crutch Workshops
  • Cage Your Rage Workshops
  • Kairos Christian Fellowship
  • Choice Theory/Internal Empowerment Coaching
  • TUMI Discipleship Program

Pictures of California State Prison - Centinela

Careers at California State Prison - Centinela

If you are interested in a job at California State Prison, Centinela, please visit the CalCareers website to view available positions.