Pelican Bay State Prison

Pelican Bay State Prison is a supermax facility for men located in Crescent City, California. It is located on 275 acres on the North Coast of California, 13 miles from the Oregon/California Border.  The institution opened in 1989 to accommodate a need for a growing population of maximum security inmates.

Pelican Bay State Prison is designed to house California’s most serious criminal offenders in a secure, safe, and disciplined institutional setting. Half of the prison houses maximum-security inmates in a general population setting. The other half houses inmates in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), designed for inmates presenting serious management concerns.

SHU inmates are confined to their assigned cells for up to 22 hours a day, and correctional officers deliver food through a slot in the cell door.

In addition to General Population, B Facility operates the Restricted Custody General Population (RCGP), which is a 96-bed unit designed as a transitional program for inmates who are recently released from the SHU to GP that have custodial/security/safety concerns.

PBSP also operates a 400-bed, Level I Minimum Support Facility, which houses non-violent offenders outside of the secure perimeter of the main institution, and a Firehouse with eight full time inmate firefighters.

Pelican Bay has often appeared in pop culture, with references in films like Training Day, Heat, and Miami Vice.

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Visiting Hours and Rules

Visiting hours at Pelican Bay State Prison are on Saturdays, Sundays, and four holidays: New Year’s Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. The visiting hours are generally between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

To get up-to-date information on visits at Pelican Bay State Prison, call the 800 Visitors’ Information number at 800-374-8474. This number will give you details on lockdowns, medical quarantines, or other circumstances affecting visiting.

We highly recommend that you read the CDCR’s detailed Visitation Guidebook before visiting an inmate. This 28-page book includes detailed information on visiting rules and procedures and it has answers to any questions you might have.

You can also schedule a visit at Pelican Bay State Prison in advance by using the VPASS system. This is required when you are visiting an inmate who is in the SHU because they can only have non-contact visits behind glass.

Getting Approved for a Visit

Before you can visit an inmate at Pelican Bay you must get on the approved visiting list. First, you will need a visitor questionnaire, but the only way to get it is by asking the inmate you wish to visit to send you one. They must sign the questionnaire before sending it to you.

Once you receive it and fill it out, mail the completed questionnaire to:

Pelican Bay State Prison
Visiting Sergeant
PO Box 7000
Crescent City, CA 95531-7299

The prison will notify the inmate if you are approved, and then they must notify you. If you are denied, the prison will send you a letter explaining the reason for disapproval.

General Visiting Rules

The inmates at Pelican Bay who are in general population are allowed contact visits which are restricted to five visitors at a time.

Inmates in the SHU are only allowed non-contact visits where inmates and visitors are separated by a glass partition. You must have an appointment for a non-contact visit.

When you arrive at Pelican Bay for a visit, be sure that you have a current photo ID. Also, be prepared to be searched and to go through a metal detector. The items you bring will go through an X-ray machine.

When you arrive for a contact visit, you are allowed to bring in the following items:

  • Up to $50 per adult (only as dollar bills, dollar coins, and quarters) for the vending machines
  • A small, clear, plastic purse or bag
  • Two keys on a ring with no other attachments
  • 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”; photos may be shown to the prisoner, but must be taken out by the visitor at the end of the visit. No Polaroids. No sexual or gang images
  • Ten pages of documents

Dress Code

You are required to dress modestly when visiting an inmate at Pelican Bay. The specific dress code is as follows:

  • No blue denim, blue chambray, orange jumpsuits or orange tops with orange bottoms
  • No forest green bottoms with tan tops
  • No camouflage unless identification shows active or reserve military personnel
  • No strapless, halter, bare midriff, sheer, or transparent clothing
  • No skirts, dresses, or shorts that expose more than two inches above the knee
  • No clothing that exposes the breasts, genitalia, or buttocks area
  • No very tight, form-fitting attire
  • No wigs, hairpieces, extensions, or other headpieces except for medical reasons and with prior approval
  • No hats or gloves
  • No shower shoes

Physical Address

Pelican Bay State Prison
5905 Lake Earl Drive
Crescent City, CA 95531

Driving Directions:

General Phone Number

​(707) 465-1000

Inmate Mailing Address(es)

Inmate Name, CDCR Number
Pelican Bay State Prison
P.O. Box 7500
Crescent City, CA 95532

Be sure to include the inmate’s name and CDCR number on all correspondence. All mail going into Pelican Bay is inspected by prison staff.

You are allowed to send any of the following items:

  • 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 from the internet, newspapers, or magazines

You can’t send books directly to an inmate. Instead, they must be sent through approved vendors like Amazon. If you want to send magazines or newspapers, you have to do that via a subscription so it comes directly from the publisher.

How to Call an Inmate

You can’t call an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison, but the inmates do have access to phones and can call you collect. For complete details on how to call an inmate in California, please click here.

How to Send Money

There are three ways to send money to an inmate at Ironwood: using the lockbox, Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) online, or mailing a check or money order directly to the inmate. To get complete details about sending money to an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison, click here.

​Programs For ​Inmates

  • California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA): CALPIA operates one Industry at PBSP: Laundry. This industry employs approximately 18 inmates and has contracts with Pelican Bay State Prison and Del Norte School District.
  • Career Technical Education (CTE) formerly Vocational Education Program: PBSP offers Career Technical Education Computer Literacy program and Tsunami Adult School. Additionally, inmates have work assignments throughout the institution on various work crews which include yard crews, kitchen workers, porters, clerks, grounds keeping, maintenance, and other duties which assist in the daily operation of the prison.
  • Academic: PBSP offers a Literacy Program, Adult Basic Education, General Education Diploma (GED) and High School Diploma, as well as College Courses, which are available through distance learning. There are 2 academic delivery models: Alternative Education and a Voluntary education program. Both offer literacy, adult basic education, HSD and GED. The voluntary program allow participants to be involved in college and correspondence courses.
  • Inmate Support Groups at PBSP include: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotic Anonymous, Choices for Common Ground, Prisoners Embracing Anti-hostility Cultural Evolution (PEACE), Reaching Out Convicts to Kids (ROCK), Victim Offender Education Group (VOEG), New Beginnings, Jesuit Restorative Justice Program, AI-ANON, Getting Out by Going In (GOGI), Veterans Group, and Breaking Barriers.

Pictures of Pelican Bay State Prison

Careers at Pelican Bay State Prison

If you are interested in a job at Pelican Bay State Prison, you can find available positions on the CalCareers website.