Since 2006, Sarah Shepherd has charted a unique career path, now serving as Correctional Business Manager at California State Prison, Sacramento. Someone unfamiliar with the job classification may think it is solely about number crunching. To reach her current position, Shepherd has gained experience working in different areas of the department, ranging from parole to the Division of Adult Institutions (DAI).
Inside CDCR caught up with Shepherd to discuss a typical Day in the Life of a Correctional Business Manager (CBM).
Meet Sarah Shepherd, Correctional Business Manager
How long have you worked for CDCR? In which institutions/locations?
I began as an Office Assistant for the Board of Parole Hearings. From there, I promoted to Office Technician and again to Staff Services Analyst, both with DAI.
While with DAI’s Statewide Transportation Unit (STU), I promoted to Associate Governmental Program Analyst (AGPA). By the end of 2008, I became a Parole Service Associate (PSA) with the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO), where I relocated to the central valley.
I spent four years as a PSA with both DAPO and the Division of Addiction and Recovery Services before returning to Sacramento as an AGPA with the General Population Mission in 2012.
Then I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to the Budget Management Branch as an Associate Budget Analyst where I spent a year and a half before becoming a Staff Services Manager with DAI’s Contract Beds Unit.
Since 2016, I’ve been a Correctional Business Manager at California State Prison, Sacramento.
In my 14-year career with CDCR, I have had diverse experiences that have allowed me to see operations through many different lenses (and) gain broad administrative experience.
Straightening out misconceptions
What is a common misconception regarding a Correctional Business Manager?
Business Services is often overlooked, and we are seen as “bean counters” or the people who always say “no” or that we’re “just support staff.” The CBM is responsible for much of the non-custody support to the institution. We also ensure the institution operates within the allotted budget. Business Services is the driving force to keep the customer service, supply, and budgetary operations at the institution operating effectively and efficiently.
Personnel, Budget, Procurement, and Trust/Accounting all have control agencies outside of CDCR. The CBM is responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules and regulations set forth by those agencies. At times, this results in having to say no to customer requests. The CBM’s job is to explain why and ensure the internal and external partnerships remain intact. We pride ourselves on working together as a team to find ways to make things happen.
Bridging information gaps
As part of the Executive Management team, the CBM bridges the gap between specialized workers in Personnel, Trust/Accounting, Food Services, Warehouse, Procurement, Canteen, Budget, and the management team. The CBM has to understand the technical aspects of each of these areas and be able to explain the what, why, and how to Executive Management staff, who likely have not come up the Business Services route.
The CBM must also understand custody and health care operations, and how the fast-changing institutional environment impacts the institution’s business operation. In addition to providing oversight for each of these areas, they are responsible for providing high-level updates on each of these operations. This helps ensure the current policies, procedures, and regulations are being followed. The CBM is the liaison to various Headquarters programs with oversight of Personnel, Trust/Accounting, Food Services, Warehouse, Procurement, Canteen, and the Budget.
The CBM is also the Administrative Officer of the Day. This means that for roughly three weeks a year, the CBM is responsible for oversight of all prison operations, including providing direction to on-duty custody staff.
What do you find most satisfying about your job?
I learn something new every day. In the beginning, I was being introduced to Food Services, Trust/Accounting, Warehouse, Canteen, and Personnel transactions for the first time, so it seemed like everything in those areas was new. As I have become more seasoned, I still learn different nuances about each of the areas I supervise, and I have different challenges to figure out that keep me excited and motivated. Additionally, I have the opportunity to teach others what we do in Business Services.
I have had many Associate Wardens, and most have not come from Business Services, so they are eager to learn what we do, and I get great joy out of having the opportunity to teach them.
Helping CDCR achieve goals
How does your position help fulfill CDCR’s mission?
Business Services handles the logistics for the institution. We provide the services that support the staff and the institution as a whole. The CBM is like the city manager ensuring the city has the supplies, staff, and funding to run successfully. Without supplies coming in and out, food being prepared and served, staff being hired and paid, managing inmate bank accounts, and ensuring all of this is happening within budget, the institution does not run successfully.
Additionally, in Food Services, Warehouse, and Canteen, we have incarcerated workers who have the opportunity to learn skills that will assist their efforts to successfully reintegrate into our communities. We provide the incarcerated population with nutritious balanced meals, laundry services, and the opportunity to shop at the canteen.
The CBM plays an important role at the institutions and has a unique opportunity to support diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the institution for both staff and the inmate population.
Gain experience and learn new skills
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in CDCR?
Take advantage of any opportunity that sounds interesting. There are many different paths within CDCR that will support your career and retirement goals. When I joined CDCR, it was not with the idea that I would work in Business Services. I came to CDCR with a plan to become a Parole Agent and work my way up the DAPO side. Along the way, I took advantage of new opportunities as they became available.
Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new. CDCR is a family. I have the opportunity to work in numerous different areas within CDCR, and each has been welcoming and taught me lifelong skills for on the job and in my personal life.
A Day in the Life of a Correctional Business Manager
Describe your typical work day:
Every day is so different it is hard to say what a typical day will hold.
On any given day, I am ensuring we are on top of the hiring process for both custody and non-custody positions, reviewing worker’s compensation cases and monitoring the progress of the open cases, reviewing purchase requisitions and the budget, monitoring food services, reviewing appeals, and participating in SAC’s Institutional Executive Review Committee.
One of the unique things about the CBM position at SAC is the number of shared services with Folsom State Prison (FOL). I work closely with FOL’s CBM to ensure both institutions’ Food Services and Receiving warehouse operations are running smoothly. Additionally, FOL provides the fire services for SAC, so I collaborate with their CBM for our fire-related needs as well. The shared services communication and relationships with colleagues are critical to both institutions being successful.
I am fortunate to have an amazing team of staff to help ensure we are running like a well-oiled machine keeping our little city running. Business Services is never boring, and it is exciting to see what challenges each day, week, and month brings.