Boron Federal Prison: Abandoned Club Fed

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.

The view that inmates, visitors and guards saw as they entered Boron FPC, known as Club Fed.
Barracks became dormitories not cells.

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.

 All that remains nowadays are the mutilated shells of buildings, discarded furnishings and abject destruction where imaginary zombies thrive around every corner.

South Florida Sun Sentinel Fort Lauderdale, FL 10 June 1989

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.

Reno Gazette Journal (Reno, Nevada), 25 Feb 1985.
John surveys the area. Compare it to the above newspaper photo.

There were only seven such facilities in the country, and Boron was the only self-contained Level 1 institution in California.

The San Bernardino County Sun, 23 June 1987.

“The prison had no walls, fences, bars, gun towers or guns.”

The San Bernardino Sun, 3 April 1981.

The San Bernardino County Sun, 1 Feb 1981.

Guards were nattily attired in gray slacks, powder-blue shirts, maroon ties and navy blazers.

Abandoned Guard Shack at the entrance.

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.

The Daily Spectrum (St. George, Utah) 1 Aug 1984.

“Incarceration at the Federal Prison Camp at Boron is more a state of mind than a state of siege.”

One of the only things we spotted that was not vandalized was this beautiful, hand painted panel of boulders with a tribute to 20-mule Borax teams. Some museum needs to snap it up before it is destroyed or stolen. It is a genuine treasure among rubble.
The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) 7 Sept 1986.
The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) 7 Sept 1986.

“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…

The San Bernardino County Sun, 24 October 1979.

The San Bernardino County Sun, 8 April 1986.
Chicago Tribune, 10 Dec 1992.

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.

The Los Angeles Times, 10 Jan 1988.
But in the evening the prison came alive as the convicted embezzlers, drug dealers, bank robbers, tax evaders, pornographers and assorted swindlers spilled out of the chow hall and onto the grounds.
The Los Angeles Times, 18 June 1987.

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.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette (Pittsburgh PA), 8 Apr 1980

“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.”

Honolulu Star Bulletin, 31 Aug 1985.
 Note the water mister. Buildings were also kept comfortable by swamp coolers.
Los Angeles Times, 1 Nov 1988.

The Daily Spectrum, St. George, Utah, 3 Jan 1989.
FPC Boron closed in the year 2000, and the site –other than the Radar tower still operated by the FAA– has been vacant and abandoned ever since.
During our research, we found some You Tube videos and articles from people who believe FPC Boron is being remodeled into a FEMA camp for nefarious purposes.  These photos should put their theories to rest.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Despite surveillance cameras, FPC Boron looks post-apocalyptic due to being heavily vandalized and looted. How ironic, considering law breakers were once incarcerated here.
The prison’s Admin & Security Control structure has burned down to the ground. Another building on the grounds was also lost in a fire.
Although we didn’t spot any “no trespassing” signs at the prison entrance, military personnel and police regularly train at the facility and can enforce trespassing, theft and vandalism laws on federal property.  The domed FAA radar tower is monitored by cameras and is strictly off-limits.
The last view federal prisoners saw when they were transferred or released from Boron Federal Prison Camp.

47 thoughts on “Boron Federal Prison: Abandoned Club Fed

          1. Yep… the only thing other than the radar station is the Obstacle Course. And the signage for it… everything has been razed to the slabs… and they will hassle you for trespassing

  1. I learned of this place just last week as I was passing thru the Mojave Desert on my way back to Wyoming. My father worked for the US Federal Prison System when I was growing up. Our family was once assigned to the minimum security prison on Maxwell AFB Alabama during the 1970’s. It was certainly more a “club” than a prison. I worked at Edwards AFB in the early 90’s and I never knew this place existed. I enjoyed an afternoon visit to the grounds. Thankfully my father was never assigned to this facility. However, as a kid who loved adventure, it might have been a really cool place to spend a number of childhood years. Thanks for the article.

  2. Interesting. Did you come across any information about the escape in October, 1999, of Hector Francisco Molina, who was recaptured in October, 2017, in El Paso, and within a few days released (he had about 6 years to go on his sentence).

    1. I remember frank, who wore dark glasses and white shorts, he hung around the italians, so he got out six days after, wow

      1. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about the Fire Crew that was at Boron?? A bonifide station for San Bernardino County Fire and the California Department of Forestry. FPC Boron Station 52. Saved a lot of lives along Hwy 396 and Hwy 58. A very positive program.

        1. My husband was The Safety Manager There from 90-95..also was the one that ran Station #52 …and him and his prison crew responded to a lot of accidents..even a lost little girl They found in the Desert…My husband is gone now but he loved his station and the prisoners that work hard in there for that Little Station 52…. Ps.i worked in the office in accounting..and had 3 sons that loved it there…but the prisoner s where just that and we treated as such..but has people also.. with respect as they did us…the correctional staff… so long FPC Boran CA…

  3. I was previously unfamiliar with this facility. That is, until earlier today when I chanced upon a YouTube video that had been filmed at BFP. That video sparked an interest which in turn sparked a Google search. All of which led me here to your informative and visually stimulating pictorial submission. Kudos, J & J! You guys knocked it out of the park! I loved the way you interspersed the pictures with news clippings and personal descriptions. Thank you for this effort!

  4. Thanks for the pictures. I was stationed there in 1971, radar maintenance in the FPS-26 height finder radar tower as a young GI. I have to admit I didn’t much care for the place, being young and single. Even to see a movie we had to go to Edwards AFB. A shame about the damage done by idiots. Next time in Southern CA will go out and see my old barracks. Thanks again for the pictures and story.

    1. Rick, I too was stationed @ 750th. From June 1966 thru July 1968, worked in the dinning hall as a baker and lived
      in B barracks for a time. So I can relate to the boredom (great NCO club). brought my new bride out and moved into
      Boron. There were a lot of us 1st term GI’s living in town. many good memories, so good , I use it as my E-mail address.

  5. I do recall this place very well. Did a stint from 87-may 90. Like any person, was so glad to leave the crazy world behind. I could tell you stories….. It’s like a bad Si-Fi movie.

    1. Did you ever know a counterfeiter William Jennings? Not at Boron but elsewhere maybe T.I., or Lompoc mcc San Diego etc

  6. Just a heads up to anyone reading this from late 2018 to early 2019 and beyond… many of the buildings have now been bulldozed, with fences and signs up that say no trespassing. The site was receiving increased trespassing and any signs that were put up were being torn down… but now they are putting in fences. Technically the signs have been there for a while, but OHVers and other ‘explorers’ have vandalized the place more and more, many would routinely tear signs down, too. The CHP actively patrolled the site, as did security from EAFB nearby, though it was mostly CHP. If CHP caught anyone up there, they would get citations, no exceptions…it’s just that many people weren’t caught. The Tower does have cameras, and the CHP was often dispatched out there, but people usually were gone by the time CHP got there.

    I have a couple of photos of the current view, if interested, clearly showing the FAA building behind the fences and signs now. I’ve been told part of the problem was, especially in the last year or so, a quite a few YouTubers with popular channels did videos, even a live streams, from the grounds, including some underground tunnels that weren’t as well known off the hill that apparently got a little too close to the tower. SO the government decided to bulldoze what’s left and close it off for safety and security of the active buildings. Idiot Youtubers… they like to say that they are “documenting history” but what they are really doing is irresponsbily promoting historical sites as targets for vandalism. The Boron Prison is a prime example.

  7. I was assigned to this prison in 1983 and was there for 3 years. My family lived on the reservation and I walked to work every morning after I did a 3 mile run in the desert. I was a foreman for the Unicor factory setting up rotor winding lines with many inmates working on different stages of assembly. The refurbished items were brought to Ft. Irwin for replacement. Many good hikes in the desert and rattle snake hunting with my boys along with me. I did improvements on the radar tower electrical systems for extra cash when they needed improvements. a lot of good memories out there. I had a great crew of inmates working for me at the time and I learned as much from them as I taught.

  8. I was there in 1981 and was a cellmate of one of the 5 guys who were arrested for the murder of an inmate in a closet. I’m sure my cellmate didn’t do it but I heard it was over a $5 debt not being paid.

  9. Great article! Thanks for sharing. We’ve always wondered about that place every time we drive by on the way to Mammoth. Good to know!

  10. very sorry to see it in such a state. spent a two year honeymoon w/ my late wife, Kathy. June 1966 thru July 1968.
    many wonderful memories of 750thAC&WS. Great NCO Club! Any other alumni of 750th reading these posts?

  11. I was stationed at Boron as a Sgt. Radar Tech. 1965-1968 and worked on both the FPS90 and 27. Pulled lifeguard duty during the summer. Shot a lot of jackrabbits in 3 1/2 years and ate a lot of chili cheeseburgers at the NCO club. We all grew beards during 20 Muleteam Borax days.

  12. I was stationed at Edwards AFB in 1984-85 and came here with a bus to pick up inmates and take them to work on the Air Force base. Thanks for the article, brings back old memories.

  13. I was there in ’87 and it was my first and only time of criminal justice due to a “misunderstanding” during a real estate venture. After the NEW sentencing guidelines I wasn’t even eligible to ANY incarceration. Long story. Anyway, I really lucked out getting Boron and of course I had no idea. It did have salad and pasta bars, a swimming pool (then we were not allowed to use it and it was sort of hidden from view) and a full gym. Three to a room with two sets of bunk beds. The guards (some) used intimidation but most of them were just fascinated with our exploits and asked questions. I remained anonymous. Sunday had no breakfast but did have a BRUNCH. The Beverly Hills chef (inmate) that was there when I arrived got out within weeks much to my disappointment–although the food was certainly superior to anything I expected. They said it had swamp coolers and not AC but I simply don’t remember that either way. I just never found the indoors uncomfortable on hot days and my previous experience with swamp coolers was not pleasant. But like most humans, since prison (camp or not) was a negative experience, I have trouble remembering most of it. I only allowed one visit in my 14 months and I regretted that. Not everyone was meant to go to prison so Boron and Club Feds should be allowed to exist for that crowd. Hope that doesn’t upset anyone too badly.

  14. I spent time at Boron from 5/87 to 6/89 after 8 months as a pretrial or not yet convicted inmate at Terminal Island. The BOP drove me and a few others in civilian clothes to Boron and parked the van and said go over to that white building and they will check you in,,,,,,,,went there and the nice guard in slacks and tie said lets do this a little later because it’s dinner time and you don’t want to miss that,,,,,,,when your done come on back and we will get you checked in…….incredible food, salad bar, ice cream bar, drink bar, coffee bar reminded me of the last time I ate at a “Sizzler”…………my room was in the BOC with a shared bath. After having a time of my life for about 18 months they made me leave 6 months early,,,,,,,,dang,,,,,,,all I could think was that some day way later in life this would be a good place to retire………shame it’s gone………………..

    1. Did you know my dad, William Jennings counterfeiter? He did Tyler boron, but before you were there.

  15. I was a inmate here in the mid 90”s 93 94 95 I was originally designated to Florence Colorado which had just opened, super max , USP, FCI , & FPC. I was lucky enough to be transferred to BORON where I was amazed to see this old place and a swimming pool. Barbra walters had just done a club fed story and months before my release I watched them bury the pool. Did time with Senators , big business owners, doctors, lawyers, you name it they were there. Mafia , cartel, they were there, $40k night poker games and yes people left and disappeared all the time. Weeks befor my release the brought the 2 cops that beat Rodney king ,, Stacey Koon & Rodney Powell , cleaning toilets ….. some crazy shit happend there, crooked staff, and all kinds of crazy memories. All for conspiracy for cannabis which is now legal. They locked a lot of people up for a plant that is now curing my non curable cancer. A lot of guys inmates got sick working on these buildings with all the asbestos.

    1. We don’t think it was ever a tourist trap; it was non-commercial. It was abandoned. Agencies used it for emergency practice. However, it has been razed and everything is basically gone now. Hope you are doing well.

  16. Oh Yea I remember this place very well. Intake at the end of January of 87. The camp had a major exposure on the TV Show “2020” that showed exactly how nice it was to be in this camp. The BOP got a lot of flack… hence the name “Club Fed”. Before I arrived, inmates could wander about the camp in our street cloths, had furloughs twice a month with wives ( and girlfriends ). Lots of work details off site and more. But that was all gone during my stretch . I made it a point to focus on school studies, read lots of books & write letters every single night. Worked on the EAFB in food service at the EM Club. After a long while I started to sing with 2 church groups… we got popular in the community … so much so we were about to go on to the Arsenio Hall Show, but the BOP shut it down at the last minute .. I’m glad they did. I really didn’t want my face all over the news. Got out in mind 1990. Hit the ground running. Never looked back, except for today.

    1. Well, we’re certainly happy that it worked out for you. It’s a shame they couldn’t have at least updated the buildings, and used it for a school, housing, or even a good movie filming location.

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