Thanks to Johnny Cash, Folsom Prison is arguably the most famous prison in California, next to Alcatraz, of course. Folsom Prison has had its share of famous criminals over the years. It has long been known to hold some of the hardest criminals in California, although some are more well-known than others. Here’s some of the inmates you may have heard of that are currently serving or have served time in the prison, as well as some of the times the prison itself has been used by Hollywood filmmakers.

Famous Folsom Inmates

Erik Menendez. Currently serving life in prison, Erik and his brother Lyle are well-known for their highly-publisized court case in which they were convicted of killing their parents in 1989.  Danny Trejo. Trejo is an ex-con turned movie actor who has spent time at Folsom Prison for drug and robbery convictions. You may recognize Danny from his long acting career in movies such as “Con Air”, “Heat”, “Reindeer Games”, and “Spy Kids”.
Rick James. Most well known for his 70’s song “Superfreak”, he spent 2 years in the 90’s for assaulting 2 women. “Superfreak” achieved another stint in the early 90’s when rapper MC Hammer sampled it for his song “U Can’t Touch This”.  “Little Pete” Fong Ching. The mafia kingpin of Chinatown in the 1880’s, spent 5 years for bribery after a rival gang tried to put a hit on him and his bodyguard killed the assailant.
Marion “Suge” Knight. The head of Death Row Records (Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre) spent time for assault charges. Knight is infamous for his alleged extortion of Vanilla Ice, dangling him off of a hotel balcony to sign over royalties of his first album. Charles Manson. One of the most notorious serial killers in the world spent time in Folsom Prison from 1972-1976. Manson convinced followers to kill Sharon Tate and 9 others during a crime spree in 1969.
Johnny Cash was not an inmate at Folsom Prison, though he made the prison famous. He spent some time at the prison to record an album, however he never was an actual prisoner at Folsom Prison.    
2005’s Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix, was the story of Johnny Cash’s life. The intro was the scene in which Cash performed at Folsom prison. Phoenix visited Folsom Prison in January 2006 in a screening to the prisoners in tribute to the late Cash. 1992’s Diggstown, starring James Woods and Louis Gossett Jr, was the story of an ex-con who made a bet that a 48-year old man could knock out 10 boxers in 24 hours. This movie features a young Heather Graham.
The 1979 movie Jericho Mile was filmed entirely at Folsom Prison. The true story, is about a prisoner serving life who is destined to become an Olympic track star, even though he is forced to stay within the confines of prison. The movie also used several inmates as actors. This movie was the directorial debut of filmmaker Michael Mann Clips from Another 48 Hours starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte were filmed at Folsom Prison.
American Me, a 1995 film starring Edward James Olmos, was a story of the rise of Mexican controlled organized crime in the United States, focusing on a gang member from East L.A., who becomes a kingpin while in prison.    

Folsom Prison in the Movies