Update: Since our article was originally published, the entire ruins of the former Federal Prison Camp was demolished in 2018. Only the fenced FAA radar tower remains.
At a remote desert site six miles north of Kramer Junction is a former military base and Federal Prison Camp, with an active FAA radar facility.
The prison, which closed in April 2000, was one of around 47 minimum security federal prison camps in the United States, and housed about 540 male inmates.
Workers in the prison assembled parts for military vehicles and rebuilt forklifts for the Army. The boarded-up prison facility is located on the site of the old Boron Air Station.
Also known as the Boron Air Force Radar Facility, it was managed by nearby Edwards Air Force Base, and consisted of several barracks and administration buildings spread out over a few hundred acres, with a large radar dome at the peak of the hill.
The site started off as a USAF Air Control & Warning Radar station (basically, trying to detect, identify & track hostile bomber aircraft, and vector USAF Air Defense Command interceptors to get them) in the early 1950s, which included housing for staff and their families and remained operational until 1975.
Most of the facility was later used by the Prison Camp. It had classrooms, dorms, work shops, law library, a fire department and a water treatment facility. It even had a pool and racquet ball court.
However, the domed structure on the hill top is still in use by the FAA for aircraft flight tracking. With the present state of the world, it still serves an important function.
Minimum-security institutions such as Boron are often referred to as country club prisons or Club Fed; officially they are categorized as Security Level No. 1 institutions, the least guarded in the federal prison system.
There were only seven such facilities in the country, and Boron was the only self-contained Level 1 institution in California.
“The prison had no walls, fences, bars, gun towers or guns.”
Guards were nattily attired in gray slacks, powder-blue shirts, maroon ties and navy blazers.
Amenities included a swimming pool and two full-time recreation directors.
Some inmates, who were allowed to leave the prison unescorted, spent their days working in nearby communities and their evenings umpiring games for the local Little League.
“Incarceration at the Federal Prison Camp at Boron is more a state of mind than a state of siege.”
“But escapes are rare because those who are caught face the most severe punishment the prison can impose. They are banished from the privileged environs of Boron and sent to a traditional prison. A prison without a salad bar in the chow hall. A prison without cable television.”
But a few knuckleheads still couldn’t accept they had it so good…
During an average weekday, the pace of the prison was sleepy, almost tranquil. Inmates were working or in class, and the grounds were nearly empty.
Inmates jogged around the softball field, just inside an off-limits sign. The shuffleboard league began the evening’s competition. The racquetball court was filled, and inmates lined up behind the gym for the traditional prison activity of building up bulk at the weight room.
“Visitors arrived, many driving Cadillacs, Lincolns or Mercedes-Benzes. Some inmates in the visiting room skipped dinner because their wives and girlfriends had packed gourmet meals and then heated them in the microwave.”