Each year Southern Oregon University's Criminology and Criminal Justice Department coordinates a field trip to Pelican Bay Prison for exposure to a learning environment participants never forget.


Located on 275 acres in northwest California, Pelican Bay Prison is designed to house California's most serious criminal offenders in a safe, secure, and disciplined institutional setting.  Pelican Bay Prison opened in 1989 to satisfy a need for a growing number of maximum-security inmates.  Pelican Bay Prison has an approximate budget in excess of $180 million and roughly 1500 employees.




Students tour the inner most areas of the maximum security prison and spend hours learning about what the prison, a self-sufficient miniature city, does and how it functions. The sound of the large steel doors slamming shut behind them and other sights and sounds of prison life forge unforgettable memories for future criminologists and criminal-justice practitioners.


Pelican Bay SHU prisoner

SHU prisoner


Pelican Bay inmates

Pelican Bay inmates


Photo and award credits for the prisoners and arial photo:



Students learn about Pelican Bay Inmate Programs

  • Prison Industry Authority (PIA): The PIA operates two programs at PBSP which employ approximately 100 inmates. One of the programs is the PIA Laundry, which is responsible for the cleaning of all institutional clothing and linen and also contracts with the local school district to clean rugs.
  • Vocational Programs: PBSP offers vocational courses in Auto Mechanics, Building Maintenance, and is in the process of establishing Vocational Landscaping, Auto Body Repair and Graphic Arts Programs.
  • 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 Adult Basic Education, General Education Diploma (GED), as well as College Courses, which are available through distance learning.
  • Inmate Support Groups: PBSP offers inmates access to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Choices for Common Ground, Incarcerated Veterans, and Reaching Out Convicts to Kids which is known as the "ROCK" Program.


Family Reunification Liaison

  • CDCR provides through a contract with a community-based organization an on-site Case Manager as a family reunification liaison for inmates and family members, to assist with an inmate's pre-release preparation; and conduct Parenting and Creative Conflict Resolution classes for inmates. 


The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Southern Oregon University also arranges field trips to Oregon state prisons and to Oregon Youth Authority facilities.