As of Fiscal Year 2002/2003, COR had a total of 1,703 staff and an annual institutional budget of US$115 million. As of March 2012, the facility's total population was 4,500, or more than of 144.4 percent of its design capacity of 3,116.
– Individual cells, fenced perimeters and armed coverage
Level IV housing – Cells, fenced or walled perimeters, electronic security, more staff and armed officers both inside and outside the installation
Security Housing Units, "the most secure area[s] within a Level IV prison designed to provide maximum coverage." Among these units are the Protective Housing Unit which holds up to 47 prisoners who require "extraordinary protection from other prisoners." The Protective Housing Unit has been described as "strikingly calm" because inmates "don't want to be moved somewhere less guarded." One violent incident occurred in March 1999 when three inmates attacked inmate Juan Corona, inflicting minor injuries, and smashed Charles Manson's guitar. Three other Protective Housing Unit inmates suffered minor injuries.
A front-page article by Mark Arax in the August 1996 Los Angeles Times claimed that COR was "the most troubled of the 32 state prisons." At the time, COR officers had shot and killed more inmates "than any prison in the country" in COR's eight years of existence. Seven inmates had been killed, and 50 others seriously wounded. Based on interviews and documents, Arax concluded that many shootings of prisoners were "not justified" and that in some cases "the wrong inmate was killed by mistake." Furthermore, the article alleged that "officers... and their supervisors staged fights between inmates" during "gladiator days." In November 1996, CBS Evening News broadcast "video footage of an inmate fatally shot by guards" at COR in 1994; this death "spawned a probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of alleged inmate abuses by guards."
A March 1997 episode of the CBS News60 Minutes discussed the 1994 death, "the alleged cover-up and the alarming number of shootings at the prison." The California Department of Corrections issued the results of its own investigation in November 1997, which found "isolated incidents of staff misconduct" but no "'widespread staff conspiracy' to abuse prisoners."
A film entitled "Maximum Security University," which used prison surveillance tapes showing four 1989-1993 fights "end[ing] when a guard fatally shoots a combatant," was released in February 1998. That month, eight California correctional officers and supervisors were indicted "on federal criminal civil rights charges in connection with inmate fights that occurred at Corcoran State Prison in 1994." After a trial, the eight men were "acquitted of all charges" in June 2000.
As of 1999 California had paid out several large prison brutality settlements for incidents at Corcoran, including $2.2 million to inmate Vincent Tulumis paralyzed for life in a May 1993 shooting, and $825,000 for the killing of Preston Tate in April 1994.
Subsequently, COR has been featured in at least two episodes of MSNBC's Lockup series: "Inside Corcoran" (which first aired as early as 2003) and "Return to Corcoran" (which first aired in 2005).
Charles Manson, who was transferred from San Quentin State Prison to COR in March 1989. In April 2012, Manson was again denied parole. He will not be eligible again until 2027, by which time he could likely be dead in body as well as in mind.
Mikhail Markhasev, convicted murderer of Ennis Cosby, son of entertainer Bill Cosby. In 1998, he received a sentence of life without parole, plus 10 years.
^Good, Bob. First Inmates Arrive at Corcoran Prison. Fresno Bee, February 23, 1988.
^Diaz, Sam. Corcoran Prison Opens Hospital Doors. It's Like Most Facilities, Except for the Armed Guards, Security Cameras and Grill Gates. The Fresno Bee, October 28, 1993.
^ abcArax, Mark. Tales of Brutality Behind Bars; Five officers claim staging of "gladiator days," other abuses at Corcoran State Prison. FBI is investigating facility, which has most killings of inmates in U.S. Los Angeles Times, August 21, 1996.
^Podger, Pamela J. Video of Fatal Prison Shooting at Corcoran Stirs Controversy. The Fresno Bee, November 20, 1996.
^"60 Minutes" Spotlights Corcoran. "Deadliest Prison" Segment Will Lead Off Sunday's Broadcast. Fresno Bee, March 29, 1997.
^Holding, Reynolds. State Corrections Dept. Clears Itself in Probe of Corcoran Prison. The San Francisco Chronicle, November 27, 1997.
^A Film Aims to Expose Prison Deaths. Private Investigator Hopes Corcoran Footage Stirs Debate, Reform. Fresno Bee, February 16, 1998.
^Juan Corona denied parole for 2nd time. San Diego Union, June 24, 1987.
^ abGrossi, Mark. Corcoran Prison Home to Who's-Who of Killers. The List of Infamous Murderers at the State Facility has Grown This Week to Include Sirhan Sirhan and Juan Corona. The Fresno Bee, June 5, 1992.