Folsom is probably best known in popular culture for concerts performed at the facility by musician Johnny Cash, particularly in 1968, when the two shows of January 13 were made into a live album. He had written and recorded the song “Folsom Prison Blues” over a decade earlier. Source.
The prison is as the end of a long, beautiful winding road through cow pastures and is located in front of Folsom Lake.
I was instructed not to wear blue or denim (which is basically my entire wardrobe plus a blazer). I also had to leave behind my Apple Watch, iPhone and my doctoral tam (no hats).
The security to enter and exit the prison is incredible! I first had to sign in and show a state issued id at the gate. One of the prison’s employees picked me up in a golf cart to drive me to B-wing. Once we arrived at the second gate. There was a double 20 foot fence topped by razor wire. In between the fence was an electrified fence. The employee mentioned that every week the prison retrieves birds that have met their demise from coming into contact with the fence. There is another guard station at the triple fences where you sign in and show state issued id again.
We entered the B-wing through a set of stairs that were remotely locked at the top and bottom. We then walked down a few hallways. To enter the graduation auditorium, we then had to pass another guard station with two sets of locked doors. Here we showed our id for a third time. Strangely, the entire experience reminded me Lockdown, a zombie podcast that I recently listened to where the apocalypse setting is a prison.
When I entered the auditorium, there were about 50 prisoners sitting that were receiving diplomas and certificates of different types. One student was finishing his four-year college degree and two others were finishing two-year associates degrees. There were about 10 other prisoners that had finished their high school equivalency. The other 35 or so were receiving honors such as Microsoft, technology and parole program certificates.
The audience also contained a section of supportive prison staff on the left. The prisoners that were receiving diplomas were allowed by the prison to invite family members to celebrate with them— the family section was to the right of the prisoners.