Beyond the Badge

Farewell architect: Kirkland retires after 48 years

"Kirkland retires" graphic with blueprint style background.
Richard "Rich" Kirkland

Multi-agency builder, collaborator logs nearly 5 decades of service

(As Richard Kirkland retires, Inside CDCR takes a closer look at his long CDCR and CCHCS career. — Editor)

“I’m going to Disney World, and I’m taking The Bus.”

The famous words of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward have to resonate for CCHCS Chief Deputy Receiver Richard “Rich” Kirkland on the eve of retirement.

Though a lifelong Steelers fan, Rich doesn’t have a Super Bowl celebration to make his proclamation like Ward did back in 2006, or the company of Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis (A.K.A. “The Bus”).

Rich’s achievements are a bit more tangible.

The man who literally built the institutions we work in, and guided both CDCR and CCHCS through some of the most complex projects in correctional history, is finally hanging up his hat and trading them for Mickey ears.

Kirkland plans to “go to Disneyland,” with his wife Rosie and their grandson when he retires 48 years of state service. He served as Warden, Deputy Director, Director, Chief of Corrections Services and finally Chief Deputy Receiver.

Kirkland started at Department of Social Services in 1974

That summary covers less than half of the positions Rich has held since he departed University of California, Berkeley, with a Bachelor of Science Degree (“Go Bears!”) and took an analyst job with the Department of Social Services in 1974.

Nine years later, Rich found himself with an SSM I title in CDCR’s Planning and Construction Division. Within a year, he was appointed by Governor Deukmejian as a project director for new prison construction across the state, and by 1992 he had led the construction of Pelican Bay State Prison, Calipatria State Prison and California State Prison, Sacramento. He led expansion projects at California Correctional Institution, High Desert State Prison and Sierra Conservation Center.

Rich accomplished all of this with deep precision in budgeting, contracts and stakeholder collaboration with the Legislature and Public Works Board. He was an invaluable resource to incoming wardens and his knack for problem solving ensured project close-outs.

This reputation was impossible to ignore, and soon after leading the construction of PBSP, Rich was recruited to its leadership ranks. The problem-solving techniques that broke ground across the state also hoisted Rich to PBSP Associate Warden for Business Services and Correctional Administrator positions for 10 consecutive years. By, 2003 he was CDW and became PBSP’s Warden just a year later.

CDCR and CCHCS leadership roles

He joined CDCR headquarters leadership in Sacramento in 2006 (Deputy Director, Fiscal Services) and retired from that post to begin work with the receivership a year later.

Rich wasted little time using his expansive knowledge of corrections and project management. He became the California Prison Health Care Receivership Director of the Plata v. Schwarzenegger federal class action civil rights lawsuit in 2007.

Two years later, Rich’s encyclopedic knowledge of prison construction became a pivotal asset for CCHCS, when he took the role of Project Manager for Construction Oversight.

It’s during this time that Rich’s expertise helped drive real change for incarcerated people across the state, as access to quality care improved with each project. When CCHCS Receiver Clark Kelso introduced an initiative to make a system-wide change, Rich’s knowledge of how to enact that change, within the state processes, was the adhesive that fit everything into place.

That devotion to project completion and solutions is what made Rich fit so well with CCHCS, and why he thrived as Chief of Corrections Services and Chief Deputy Receiver.

And it’s why he is destined for a terrific life in retirement, where his new obstacles will be staying “out of the kitchen” on the pickleball court or “acing” shots in disc golf.

Who knows, he may just fix the lines at Disneyland while he’s there.

By Ike Dodson, CCHCS Information Officer II

BY THE YEARS: Kirkland retires after 48 years

  • 1973: Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration (Finance/Applied Economics), University of California, Berkeley
  • 1974-1980: AGPA, Social Services, Adult Program Management Branch
  • 1980-1984: SSM I, Social Services, AFDC Policy Branch
  • 1984-1985: SSM I, CDCR, Planning and Construction Division
  • 1985-1992: Project Director, CDCR, Planning and Construction Division
  • 1993-1997: Correctional Administrator, CDCR, Business Services, PBSP
  • 1997-1998: Correctional Administrator, CDCR, Central Services, PBSP
  • 1998-1999: Correctional Administrator, CDCR, Health Care Operations, PBSP
  • 1998-2001: Correctional Administrator, CDCR, General Populations, PBSP
  • 2001-2003: Correctional Administrator, CDCR Security Housing Unit, PBSP
  • 2003-2004: Chief Deputy Warden, CDCR, PBSP
  • 2004-2006: Warden, CDCR, PBSP
  • 2006-2007: Deputy Director, Fiscal Services, CDCR
  • 2007-2009: Director, Plata Support Division, CPR
  • 2009-2012: Project Manager, Construction Oversight, Corrections Services, CCHCS
  • 2012-2013: Chief, Corrections Services, CCHCS
  • 2013-2022: Chief Deputy Receiver, CCHCS

Read well wishes sent by Kirkland’s coworkers and colleagues.

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