Nestled in the rolling hills near Castaic, on 2,620 acres, is Los Angeles County's largest jail complex.
Peter J. Pitchess Detention Center is the temporary home of about 8,600 men awaiting trial on a variety of crimes, as well as parole violators serving sentences of up to a year.
The facility--which includes two maximum-security and two medium-security jails and is administered by the county Sheriff's Department--began 60 years ago as the Wayside Honor Rancho, a minimum-security prison where inmates worked on a farm setting.
Because many of the inmates were there on alcohol-related offenses, it was nicknamed "Wayside Drunk Farm." Eugene Biscailuz, then the sheriff of L.A. County, was the driving force behind the honor farm, which was California's first. Biscailuz believed that working outdoors in the facility's wheat fields and cattle, dairy and hog farms would help rehabilitate the prisoners.
But eventually, budget constraints, overcrowding at other jails and changes in philosophy eventually brought an end to the honor farm atmosphere. Now, only the empty fields and a freeway overpass sign stating "Wayside Honor Rancho" remain as a testament to the past.
Started as a simple disciplinary housing unit for minimum-security inmates working on the farm. Later became the facility's first maximum-security jail. Once included a bakery and print shop where inmates received vocational training.
Cost: $2.5 million
Men per dorm: 110
Total capacity: 1,830
One of two medium-security jails at Pitchess, containing four buildings.
Cost: $47 million
Men per dorm: 90
Total capacity: 1,450
Medium-security jail that offers inmates vocational programs such as masonry, dog grooming and carpentry. Inmates work on crews at the county Fire Department's Fire Suppression Training Camp No. 12, which a sign affectionately calls "Disneyland."
Men per dorm: 85
Total capacity: 1,700
North County Correctional Facility
State-of-the-art maximum-security facility offers vocational training in printing, bakery production and clothes manufacturing. Includes a 16-bed hospital dorm.
Cost: $147 million
Men per dorm: 58
Total capacity: 3,700
Typical weekly food consumption by prisoners at Pitchess
19,620 loaves of bread
1,440 dozen corn tortillas
738,159 half pints of low-fat milk
17,300 pounds of lunch meat
2,450 pounds of Salisbury steak
2,350 pounds of breaded fish
5,040 pounds of potatoes
1,000 pounds of pitted prunes
4,800 large cans of tomato catsup
178 cases of apples
178 cases of oranges
Typical weekly food budget: $157,500
1938: Wayside Honor Rancho, first honor farm in California, opened to house a few select prisoners. Dairy farmer George Dunn had sold county the property for $147,150.
1951: Prisoner population up to about 3,000. Texaco discovers oil on jail property.
1957: East Facility enlarged to accommodate more than 700 maximum-security inmates.
1958: Peter J. Pitchess becomes sheriff.
1963: East Facility expanded again; cogeneration plant built to provide energy for jail.
1975: Rancho laundry facility built. Prisoners previously worked at facility, but no longer do.
1982: Sherman Block becomes sheriff.
1983: Facility renamed Peter J. Pitchess Honor Rancho.
1992: Farming operations eliminated.
1993: Elmer T. Jaffe Visitor Center built.
1995: Ranch compound closed due to budget constraints. Name of facility changed to Pitchess Detention Center.
'97-'98 Budget (gross)
Sheriff's Department: $1,145 billion
Custody Divison: $341 million
Facts About Pitchess
Average number of days a year film crews are at Pitchess; 15
Number of Inmates transported to court daily: Approximately 350
Municipal and Superior courthouses where Inmates are taken: Van Nuys, San Fernando, Burbank, Pasadena, Newhall, Antelope Valley, Malibu and downtown Los Angeles.
Average number of two-strikes Inmates facing a third strike: 78
Number of employess: 780 sworn deputies; 650 civilians.
Amount of weekly overtime for Custody Divison: $950,000
Average number of adult visitors per weekend: 5,700
Daily cost of maintaining a prisoner: $40.84 ('97-'98)
Inmate disturbances from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30: 50 (35 minor; 15 major)
In the 35 minor incidents, 1.025 inmates were involved and 160 were injured.
In the 15 major incidents, 1,610 inmates were involved and 191 were injured.
Sources: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; Researched by STEPHANIE STASSEL/Los Angeles Times