The Abandoned Federal Prison in Boron
Off Highway 395, about 7 miles from a cluster of gas stations and a truck stop diner, is the decaying wasteland of a former federal prison. There are no fences and no gates. There never were. Sparked by the Korean War, the Boron Air Force Station was built in 1950 as part of a radar network. It was upgraded and modified through the years, with the Federal Aviation Administration joining in on the fun in the 1960's. The FAA remained, and still does to this day, after the military closed up shop in 1975. In March of 1979, the Federal Prison Camp at Boron opened its doors.
Federal Prison Camp at Boron (FPCB) is a relatively interesting prison because of its near lack of security. The warden and local papers repeatedly boasted about the lack of escapees, while admitting that most inmates were white collar criminals who would rather play tennis and get a college education than face capture and transfer to a “real prison.” That's right. Tennis. And a pool, a softball field, shuffleboard, racquetball, ceramics classes, scuba diving lessons with field trips to Laguna Beach and Catalina Island, a salad bar, five days of visitors a week, four furlough days a month, PLUS free college courses.
Of course, there was controversy. The inmate demographic skewed heavily toward wealthy white men, such as the lawyer-slash-cocaine-dealer caught with 2 pounds of coke and sentenced to just one year of country club style prison. There were state senators and an Olympic athlete, too. On visiting days, the parking lot filled not with hoopties, but Cadillacs and BMWs. Tax payers also seemed to resent paying for a desert resort.
I might also argue that their “no one really escapes and they're all non-violent, we swear” line is blind optimism. I found several escapes, including one article describing an armed and dangerous escaped fugitive published in the same newspaper edition as an article saying how great FPCB is because no one wants to escape. Funny. That particular inmate actually returned 3 days later after being guilt-tripped at a church in Victorville. He was up for parole in just 6 months but felt “uptight and under pressure.” He was sent to Terminal Island in Los Angeles.
A prisoner was found with a fractured skull and strangled to death in a utility closet in June 1981. The initial article describes his death as a “bump on the head.” Five inmates were arrested and transferred to San Bernardino County Jail. Charges were dropped on four of them after detectives interviewed the 210 current inmates. It seemed the deceased owed the killer money. That was the only death I was able to find. Also in 1981, an inmate who was serving time for escaping another prison... escaped. He was found three years later with 16 pounds of cocaine in the door of a station wagon in Tuscon. The following year, an inmate escaped and fled to Costa Rica, where he was eventually arrested after being a fugitive for 24 years.
In 1983, an inmate convicted of attempting to extort money from several Las Vegas casinos after gambling away his life savings escaped FPCB. A day later, the Parkway Theater in Las Vegas received a bomb threat with the caller demanding $2,000 be dropped off at a specified location. The movie theater acquiesced and police arrived only after the money was taken. Then, bombs made of several duct-taped dynamite sticks were found outside the Desert Inn, Stardust and Frontier hotels and 750 guests had to be evacuated while the bomb squad handled the matter.
A “suspicious” fire destroyed a two-story office building in July 1985. The initial investigation estimated damage at $100k. When the matter was turned over to the FBI, estimate doubled to $200k. At the time, FPCB housed about 300 inmates and the fire was battled with the help of the inmate fire department. The inmate fire department was sometimes recruited to help put out fires around the area and were paid $22 per month.
That same year, 1985, an inmate serving two years for tax evasion escaped FPCB. By 1989, he made is way to beautiful Secaucus, New Jersey and became an accountant at a light fixture company. He set up fake social security numbers and bank accounts and embezzled his employers' money. His employer, who described him as “a kind of quiet, harmless type of guy, detail-oriented. He appeared to be fairly industrious.” After disappearing from Secaucus, he was found by the FBI in Charleston, South Carolina and faced 85 years in prison.
1985 was a big year for the FPCB. An inmate with counterfeiting charges walked away. He was a fugitive until 2001 when the Secret Service him and his son on counterfeiting charges in Springfrield, Missouri. Over time, the Secret Service had seized about $250,000 in fake money. In 1992, a man dubbed the “Porn King” escaped FPCB. The international pornographer was serving four years on obscenity and racketeering charges. He was caught two months later in Anaheim after an “intensive” manhunt.
In April 2000, the Federal Prison Camp at Boron closed for good. It is an easily accessible dilapidated ruin but is still an active FAA site and still owned by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It is illegal to enter and I do not recommend anyone do so as they risk fines, imprisonment, injury or perhaps even death. The penal code for trespassing is as follows:
“§1793. Trespass on Bureau of Prisons reservations and land
Whoever, without lawful authority or permission, goes upon a reservation, land, or a facility of the Bureau of Prisons shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.
(Added Pub. L. 99–646, §64(a), Nov. 10, 1986, 100 Stat. 3614; amended Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, §330016(1)(G), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)
1994—Pub. L. 103–322 substituted “fined under this title” for “fined not more than $500”.