For four years, Correctional Officer Jose “Joe” Kates donned his uniform and worked to fulfill CDCR’s mission to enhance public safety through rehabilitation and reentry.
Officer Kates passed away July 11, 2020, according to North Kern State Prison officials.
A Delano native, Kates had deep roots in the community. His wife, Cecilia, said beyond the badge, her husband was loving, silly and had a big heart.
“He loved his career and was very proud,” she said.
While not working in an institution, he could often be found along rivers and streams, with a line in a water waiting for a bite.
“He knew all the best fishing spots and was always trying out new spots. He was just a big teddy bear,” she said. “Most people didn’t see that side of him, but I did.”
Officer Kates loved to fire up his grill.
“He was a great family guy. He loved us dearly,” she said. “On his days off, he loved to barbecue and hang out with our close friends.”
He was also a football fan and enjoyed “crazy music,” she said.
“When he was playing his music, I’d yell out at him to turn that crap off,” she laughed. “He was the disc jockey for all the family parties.”
Officer Kates, a San Francisco 49ers fan, played for the law enforcement football team last year.
“Our sincerest condolences are extended to Jose’s family, friends, and loved ones. In these tough times, Correctional Officer Jose Kates and his family will be in our thoughts and we thank him for his service and dedication,” said Warden Kelly Santoro.
CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz also offered condolences.
“The passing of Correctional Officer Kates is a loss to the entire department. My prayers go out to the family of Officer Kates and to all those who fulfill their calling to public safety in our institutions,” said Secretary Diaz.
Another coworker remembered how Officer Kates was there for his family, including attending his daughters’ cheerleader events.
“(He) was very proud and loved his wife and kids very much,” said Correctional Officer R. Cortez.
Officer Kates began his CDCR career at the Basic Correctional Officer Academy in July 2016.
After graduation, he reported to Salinas Valley State Prison and then transferred to North Kern State Prison in 2017.
By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor