Beyond the Badge, Jobs, Training and Facilities

Warden Matteson inspires women to lead

Warden Matteson holding a microphone.
Warden Matteson.

Women’s History Month: CSP-Solano Warden Giselle Matteson

Warden Matteson wearing jacket and glasses.
Warden Giselle “Gigi” Matteson

Giselle “Gigi” Matteson has spent more than 25 years at CDCR fulfilling many missions including budget services, security, executive support roles, and warden at California State Prison, Solano.

Matteson has become known for her hands-on approach and dedication to rehabilitative programming. Her career aspirations have always been fueled by her eagerness to learn as much as she can about the department.

“I got very involved with the policy and procedures and knew I had to know things like the back of my hand. Many people consider corrections as a male-dominated industry – I wanted to come into these leadership roles and make sure I was knowledgeable every step of the way,” said Matteson.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Warden Matteson chatted with Inside CDCR about her impressive career thus far and explained why women leaders are not an outlier in corrections, but a valuable asset.

Q&A with Warden Matteson

The theme of this year’s Women’s History Month is “Women providing healing and promoting Hope.” In what ways do you promote healing and hope through rehabilitation in your position?

One of my main goals as a warden is to rehabilitate from the inside out. I truly believe that we have to rehabilitate the entire person. We have many programs that focus on education and substance abuse. Self-help programs are at the forefront at SOL and I ensure we are constantly promoting them to the incarcerated population.

One of my main goals when I became warden of SOL was to increase the participation in these programs, not only the formal ones, but the peer-centered ones as well. We have seen great success in peer-to-peer mentorship, so I am always proud to promote these programs and continue to grow them.

I am also proud of the Delancey Street Program, a Pre-Release Learning Community within SOL where participants develop an understanding of what it will take for them to lead a productive life upon release and motivate them to engage in positive services. That program’s core mission is rehabilitating an individual from within. It’s one of those programs where you can see immense, meaningful growth. It’s amazing what happens when these guys are able to put their guards down and develop skills that will help them.

In everything we do, I think it is important that we show our compassion. It’s important to show we care what happens to the population, not only here, but when they are released.

Helping those who are promoting through the ranks

What advice would you give other women who seek to enter the corrections profession and maybe eventually seek leadership roles?

I would tell women to utilize their resources and network. I have always felt nurtured by my community at CDCR. Taking advantage of those connections and having a willingness to learn from your team will be extremely valuable. You are never alone in your journey.

I would like women to know we bring a unique and valuable skill-set to positions in corrections. We are excellent at maintaining many things at once, and lead compassionately and rationally. Our skill-sets are very appropriate for this field, especially leadership roles.

Also, don’t be afraid to challenge your expectations and be on the frontline. Be open to all the things there is to learn.

Inspiration and legacy

Is there a woman from this field that has especially inspired you?

The female wardens that have come before me are a huge source of inspiration. Very early on in my career, I knew that I ultimately wanted to become a Warden. I nurtured this goal by looking to my peers for guidance and inspiration.

Had it not been for wardens like Theresa Schwartz, I wouldn’t have aspired to promote. Director Connie Gipson is also someone I greatly respect. We have similar backgrounds in that we both started off in much different fields but came into our roles through networking and exploring interests.

I am especially inspired by those who take the non-traditional route to come into their roles. Whenever I talk to my staff about their goals, I make sure to let them know that I did not take the traditional route to become warden – there are many ways to meet your goals, you just have to put your mind to it.

How do you hope to leave your mark as a leader within CDCR?

I want to be known for my compassion and as someone who wanted to truly make a difference. I want to be known as someone who puts rehabilitation to the forefront and leads the movement to heal our population from the inside out so that they may transition back to society with the tools they need to be successful.

By Alia Cruz, Public Information Officer

Women's History Month March 2022 text over images from CDCR past

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