In recognition of National Immigrants Day on October 28, Sergeant Rupashna Singh shares her immigration experience. To encourage employees to expand their knowledge and gain new experiences, CDCR is highlighting our diverse workforce. Learn more about CDCR’s employment opportunities.
For Rupashna Singh, moving to the United States from Fiji in 2008 presented a clash of cultures, but it was a challenge she was eager to tackle. Today Sgt. Singh is a background investigator for the Office of Peace Officer Selection. Inside CDCR caught up with her to discuss her journey.
What are some of the positive aspects of your immigration experience?
A new beginning, brand new start and the opportunities are absolutely endless. I have a great appreciation for this country. I can guarantee that I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t migrated to the states.
How long have you worked for CDCR? What did you do prior to joining CDCR?
Prior to joining CDCR on the custody side, I was a contract employee working at the Folsom State Prison Folsom Women’s Facility working as a case manager. I decided to pursue a career with CDCR as a Correctional Officer in October 2015. I graduated the academy in January 2016.
Why did you join the department?
There’s so much room for growth and this is a department where you can become literally anything you desire. There are so many paths to choose from and so many opportunities as long as you’re motivated.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest challenge would have to be the differences in ideologies. I was raised in a very strict environment, country, culture and religion. So when I migrated to the U.S., I experienced a huge culture shock. You and I may perceive the same situation in a very different way. I had to learn fast
The U.S is extremely fast paced and if you don’t keep up you will be left behind. Fiji is more laid back, relaxed, and slow paced. I had no guidance or anyone to teach me the American way of life I had to adapt to my surroundings.
When people find out where you work, what are their reactions?
I am the only one in my entire family history who’s in a profession such as this. I come from a family full of politicians, doctors, lawyers and teachers. My family brags about me and this career path. For a female from a small island, which looks like a dot on the map, to come to the United States of America and get into a field dominated by males is unheard of. People ask lots of questions. Corrections is a field that is so under recognized.
How do you counteract any negative responses?
Friends and acquaintances may have a distorted perception of CDCR. I love conversing with people who share an opposite view because it expands my mind and thought process. I usually ask them their reasoning and they give me answers based on how popular media portrays law enforcement. I respond with a list of positive things CDCR does that the public has no idea about.
What do diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you?
There are so many different ways to cook a particular food right? There are different recipes, ingredients and spices. When you put all these together, you create something delicious and beautiful. All the components are equally as important. Every ingredient plays a vital role in adding flavor to that food. That’s what diversity equity, and inclusion are to me. You bring everyone with different backgrounds, culture and race together and see the beautiful creation we make with our different ideas, stories and experiences. When someone is different than me, whether it is language, culture, lifestyle or views, I don’t see them as though they’re “wrong” or “less than” because they’re different than me.
We live in a world where the minorities are now becoming the majorities. This is why it’s vital to accept diversity and welcome it with open arms. Inclusion brings diversity while diversity brings innovation. Without treating inclusion and diversity as equal partners, you’re not going to get innovation.
If you can eliminate a stereotype people see in you when they first meet you, what would it be and why?
The most common comment I get when people find out I wasn’t born or raised in USA is, “Wow, your English is so good. Did you learn that in America?” Just because I am from an island, doesn’t mean I am illiterate. When people think you’re illiterate, they treat you differently and not in a good way. They don’t include you in things because they assume you don’t know anything and pretty much treat you like a vegetable. I have learned to hide my accent more because I was getting constant negative comments. Anyone with an accent from a foreign country tends to be excluded and treated as though we are from outer space.
Are you involved in any charitable organizations outside of work?
I dedicate a lot of time, money, and effort into being involved with animal shelters and finding homes for the pets. I like speaking up for those who are vulnerable and animals and children are the most vulnerable in this world.
Are there any hobbies you enjoy to help work/life balance?
I’m a professional binge watcher. I have no self-control when it comes to binge watching TV shows. I also love bike riding and can ride for hours.
Thanks to social media, I have taken up a bunch of do-it-yourself projects. Every day after work you will catch me working on a new project around my house. I’ve become quite the handywoman.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
CDCR as a department is so diverse and welcoming. If there’s something you disagree with or want to change at CDCR, then perhaps work on becoming that change. When people hear I have approximately 34 years left until I retire, they say they feel sorry for me. But honestly, I am so excited to see where this journey with CDCR takes me.
By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications
CDCR and CCHCS joined the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), in its commitment to achieving equity. This path forward will provide our departments with the strategies and tools needed to advance concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion. For more information on how you can join this effort and be a part of the GARE Ambassador Program, please visit cdcr.ca.gov/gare or email GARE@cdcr.ca.gov.
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