Beyond the Badge

After 35 years, Officer Joseph Castillo retiring

Early photo and 2021 photo of Joseph Castillo at CDCR California Correctional Center.
Correctional Officer Joseph Castillo is retiring after 35 years at California Correctional Center.

Nearly four decades of public safety

Longtime Correctional Officer Joseph Castillo is looking forward to retirement after 35 years at California Correctional Center (CCC). December is his last month with the department.

Officer Castillo started working at CCC in 1986.

Inside CDCR caught up with Officer Castillo to discuss his career and plans for life after retirement.

Officer Castillo reflects on a 35-year career

What did you do before working at CCC? Why did you join the Department?

Out of high school, I worked as a seasonal firefighter for Cal-Fire in Butte County. During the off-season, I worked for the US Forest Service in Placerville. At the time, it was difficult to become a full-time firefighter. I enjoyed being a firefighter but at the time, I wanted a more stable full-time job. My fire captain suggested the California Correctional Center in Susanville. I was from Greenville and Susanville was close by.

Where are some of the areas of the prison you’ve worked?

I have worked most areas at CCC and have always enjoyed being outside. A lot of my time has been as a yard officer. During my 35 years, I assisted in opening our new level 3 unit around 1988, and have been assigned to our Investigative Service Unit on three separate occasions for a total of around 15 years. Over the last few years I have slowed down working at our Vocational Gate. I have been part of our range program for the past 10 years and enjoyed that very much.

Memorable moments at CCC

Throughout the years I have worked with a lot of good people. I had a good first partner. “Hoppy” he was helpful in every way and the things he told me my first day, I still relay to new staff. Growing up in a small town, I was sheltered from a lot and working in a prison was an eye-opener.

Working at a small prison in a small town, it seemed if you needed help with anything, there was always someone around to help. All the times I was assigned to investigation was the place I enjoyed the best. At all times the Unit was close knit and was there in the drop of a dime to assist in any way. This staff at CCC have always been there to help with training whether it’s your first day or a seasoned officer needing help with a report.

How has CCC changed since you started? How has the department changed?

I started with the department in June of 1986. Things have changed dramatically over the years. One of the best things has been the training. The first day I showed up to CCC, the sergeant gave me my keys, cuffs, a radio and said go find your partner. Now you show up and you have several weeks of training before you go out on your own. When I started, the thing that I feel has changed, is the comradery between units. When I started, you were proud to work your unit and I feel that is no longer around.

What did you do to help achieve a work-life balance?

I have been married for over 31 years and have a daughter with a disability and son. Over the years it has been very difficult to keep the family together. Honestly I don’t know how my wife has put up with me this long. Being from a rural area, the family and I have always enjoyed the outdoors. I have always liked to hunt, fish, camp and kayak.

How to achieve career goals

What advice would you give to a new employee hoping for department longevity?

Working with the Range program, I have the opportunity to talk to new officers. I tell them working at a prison, there are numerous opportunities. If you don’t like a certain area — housing, yard, kitchen, vocation — switch to another area. Find an area or job you like.

I have worked with a lot of people who are always negative and hate their job. They are miserable their whole time in the department. I have had a lot of specialty jobs (Range, Investigations, Gang unit) that have kept me more positive while at work. I have always relayed to new officers, if they need help, such as writing reports, contact me.

Looking ahead to life after retirement

I feel my wife has given up a lot for my job and I would like to do something for her. She has always enjoyed horses and being a therapeutic horse instructor. For years she enjoyed being a therapeutic horse instructor for disabled children but had to stop to stay with our daughter. I would like for her to be able get involved again with a program.

By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor

Did you know? A look at 1986:

  • The former Soviet Union was dealing with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster while the world mourned those who died in the Challenger space shuttle explosion.
  • On screen, audiences flocked to see “Top Gun,” “Crocodile Dundee,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
  • Radio stations played “Take Me Home Tonight” by Eddie Money and “Walk This Way” by Run-DMC.
  • Average rent was $359 per month while a gallon of gas in California cost $1.12.

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