Governor Gavin Newsom announced this week CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison will retire by the end of 2022. She has served the people of California for more than three decades.
“Under Kathy’s expert leadership, our state’s prisons have expanded transformative opportunities for rehabilitation and job training, supporting successful outcomes for participants as well as public safety,” said Governor Newsom. “I’m deeply grateful to Kathy for lending her more than three decades of distinguished leadership, knowledge and experience at a pivotal time for the Department and wish her the best in her next chapter.”
From the start of her career at CDCR as a Medical Technical Assistant at Avenal State Prison in 1987 to being appointed the first female CDCR Secretary in October 2020, Secretary Allison has seen immense changes in the corrections landscape. She has overseen the thoughtful implementation of many criminal justice reforms, as well as developing policies and programs that provide people with real opportunities for success after incarceration.
Governor Newsom also announced Jeff Macomber will serve as the next CDCR Secretary effective December 28, 2022. Macomber has served as Undersecretary of Operations at CDCR since October 2020.
Macomber has nearly 30 years of diverse experience at CDCR, including leadership roles in custody, administration, and health care.
“With his extensive experience at the Department, deep knowledge of the wide-ranging issues at hand and commitment to public service, I am confident that Jeff will more than meet this moment,” said Governor Newsom. “I look forward to his partnership in advancing restorative justice and our work to end the revolving door of the criminal justice system.”
Sensitive Needs Yards and Non-Designated Programming Facilities
In November 2022, CDCR codified into regulations Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) and Non-Designated Programming Facilities (NDPF) programs. SNY is a designation for incarcerated people who have safety concerns regarding living on a General Population (GP) yard, while NDPFs house people together regardless of their GP or SNY status to afford incarcerated people greater access to rehabilitative programs. Assignment to these facilities is made only after careful review of each individual’s case factors, potential safety concerns, and housing/rehabilitation needs to ensure people can safely program together. While these programs have been in place for some time, the department has now placed them into regulations to provide consistent requirements for both programs.
Division of Juvenile Justice
From Pine Grove to Sacramento, a holiday tradition continues
Every year, youth from the Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp deliver fresh cut holiday trees from Amador County to Division of Juvenile Justice facilities and CDCR headquarters in Sacramento. This year, they performed that delivery on December 7, and were greeted warmly by CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison.
While DJJ facilities are set to close by June 30, 2023, Pine Grove will remain open to train justice-involved youth sent from contracting counties as wildland firefighters under the supervision of CAL FIRE.
When not training or fighting fires, crews typically work in state and county parks performing stream clearance, wild land fire prevention tasks, and restoration work. During the fire season, youth crews are involved in wildland fire suppression throughout the state of California, and have been deployed in some California’s biggest wildfires. Camp crews are also assigned to flood control activities.
The major emphasis of the camp program is to provide youths with employable skills and to develop within them a strong emphasis on solid work habits. In addition, youths receive leadership training within their crew structure.
‘Tis the season … we’re hiring correctional officers!
Another year of data proves the Department’s best recruiters are still our own employees. Year after year, our candidate surveys show most candidates learn about a career opportunity with CDCR from a friend or family member and 85 percent of the friends and family members are current or former CDCR staff. With the holidays and family gatherings upon us, and New Year’s resolutions around the corner, it’s the perfect time to spread the word that we are hiring correctional officers.
For Fiscal Year 2023-24, the Office of Peace Officer Selection is projecting to hire 2,400 candidates for the Basic Correctional Officer Academy. High operational vacancy rates and increasing retirements from officers hired in the 1990s are driving the hiring surge. Reduced hiring capacity during COVID-19 also contributed to the current need.
Background investigation Captain Dennis McTaggart said: “It’s really a great time to go through our process. Results from the JumpStart events we started in February of ’22 show the average candidate completing that process finishes in five months.”
“Our first group of candidates to finish averaged 121 days from written exam to eligible for hire,” added McTaggart.
OPOS Chief Rob Calderon said: “I recruit everywhere I go. I have four of my own family members working in the Department and Captain McTaggart has seven! If you appreciate the life CDCR has enabled you to have, tell someone about it and help us fill academies with great candidates.”
Hiring event proves successful at CCWF
Incarcerated individuals are seeing first-hand the reality of prison to employment by receiving job offers before being released to their communities. A recent civil service exam and hiring event organized by multiple state agencies at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) proved successful.
“We are definitely improving the lives of individuals who are about to leave prison,” said California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) General Manager Bill Davidson. “This hiring event shows that partnerships work, and it is rewarding to see how people come together ensuring there is a smooth transition.”
Representatives from CALPIA along with CDCR, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), California Government Operations Agency (GovOps), California Department of Human Resources (CalHR), and California Workforce Development Board all participated in the Civil Service Hiring Event.
“We were excited to host the event and provide assistance to the incarcerated population soon to be released,” said CCWF Warden (A) M. Pallares. “The idea of gaining employment quickly after being released is one less hurdle a parolee may face and with this event and we are hoping to provide a new avenue of hiring for the workforce vacancies.”
“I am excited and elated to be given this opportunity,” shared Tamara Balthazar, who has since paroled. “If hired on as a member of Caltrans, I will work hard and strive to do my best and hopefully rise up through the ranks to a supervisory capacity.”
Caltrans reached out for assistance in filling entry-level Highway Maintenance Worker positions. Nine individuals from CCWF were interviewed and eight of them received Intent to Hire letters.
In our Institutions
NKSP’s holiday spirit burns bright
North Kern State Prison (NKSP) and Santa Claus delivered more than150 presents to McFarland’s littlest Bobcats at Kern Avenue Elementary and to Delano’s Thunderbirds special needs students.
“We were grateful to provide holiday gifts to Kern Avenue Elementary in McFarland and Robert F. Kennedy High School special need students,” shared Warden Santoro. “Employees of NKSP pride themselves in spreading the holiday cheer to our youth during Christmas. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces is extremely rewarding for all of us here at NKSP, and of course a special thank you to Santa Claus for his assistance.”
In the Media
For people who have been in prison, getting and holding onto a job afterwards is tough. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the 50,000-plus people released from Federal prisons in 2010, one-third failed to gain any work over the four years post-release.
The overall employment rate was between 35% – 38%, meaning around two-thirds were jobless at any given time.
Those fortunate enough to get jobs were paid less than the general population, earning just 53% of the median US wage in the first few months after release; earnings were lowest for Black and Native American former prisoners.
One organization trying to improve this situation is Next Chapter, which offers people who have been in prison a route into a tech career. The scheme takes the form of an eight-month paid apprenticeship program, where people who were formerly incarcerated get taught software engineering skills.