Jobs, Training and Facilities

CDCR to begin job shadowing program for new officers

Correctional sergeant stands beside California State Prison Sacramento sign.
Sgt. Timothy Klein helps mentor new correctional officers at California State Prison, Sacramento.

Job shadowing helps new officers transition to institution

CDCR is taking significant steps to bridge the gap between the foundational instruction provided at the Basic Correctional Officer Academy (BCOA) and the application of that training once they arrive at their assigned institution. In July 2021, CDCR will implement a job shadowing program (JSP) for newly assigned correctional officers, helping them transition to an institutional environment.

JSP is an expansion of New Employee Orientation, ensuring newly hired officers receive guidance and direction consistent with local policies, procedures and best practices. It is designed to provide new officers with the opportunity for success.

The JSP familiarizes new officers with the physical layout of the institution, critical and/or difficult post assignments and effective communication with inmates. They do this all the while creating working relationships with experienced staff to establish a culture of stewardship. Additionally, the program will provide guidance and resources new officers need when first reporting to their assigned institution. The JSP has been in active pilot at California State Prison-Sacramento since late 2020.

“CSP-SAC has been fortunate enough to pilot the new Correctional Officers’ Job Shadowing Program for several months now and we couldn’t be happier,” said Warden Jeff Lynch. “I can wholeheartedly say the Department’s decision to move in this direction has saved the careers of several new officers and reduced universal anxieties of countless others.”

New days, new ways

“The days of ‘tossing the keys to a brand new officer and wishing them luck’ on the way out are in the past. This program has allowed our institution to personalize and develop the program to fit their specific needs. The compliments and appreciation given by the new officers for the program are endless. Their only recommendation has been to extend the program,” said Warden Lynch. “An additional benefit we have seen, with the experienced staff who have assisted new officers, is an added enjoyment and rejuvenation from the opportunity to share their experiences and teach others. The JSP has been nothing short of a ‘win’ for all of us. But certainly, the new officers couldn’t be thankful enough.”

Designated supervisory staff, collaborating with Peace Officer Selection and Employee Development and the Commission on Correctional Peace Officer Standards and Training, will manage JSP. This allows it to be run at the local level under the direction of the institutional chain of command.

Improved job performance is a direct result of the program, according to Sgt. Timothy Klein, who has mentored new officers.

“The JSP has made a huge difference for our new officers. Now they are no longer being thrown into the job. They are shadowing some of the best officers in the state, which increases their skills and builds confidence in doing their job,” he said. “The opportunity to be a part of JSP at CSP-Sacramento has been the most rewarding experience of my career.”

JSP’s goal is to cultivate correctional professionals who are better prepared to perform the independent duties of a correctional officer. Feedback from the pilot has been exceptional.

A new officer’s perspective

“As a newer officer, I am extremely grateful to Sgt. Klein and Warden Lynch for implementing the shadow program. I was able to shadow knowledgeable officers in their assigned jobs,” said Correctional Officer J. Williams. “The weeks I spent learning in the JSP allowed for a smoother transition into the correctional environment. The continued support from Sgt. Klein has been a blessing, as constant check-ins have allowed me to voice opinions as a new officer and receive further mentoring.”

Additional details will be shared in the near future as the program progresses. Thank you to all involved. These are significant steps toward creating a sustained culture of support and guidance for our most important resource — our staff.

Learn more about becoming a correctional officer.

By Sgt. Nicholas Swetland, Peace Officer Selection and Employee Development, Advanced Learning Institute.