Built on what was once tulare lake, home to the yokut native american people, the facility opened in 1988. the prison hospital was dedicated in october 1993. 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 8 years of existence; 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". futhermore, the article alleged that "officers... and there supervisors staged fights between inmates" during "gladiator days."

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