Beyond the Badge

Benavidez shares insights as mentor, leader

3 Questions with acting FOPS Associate Director

A woman with long, wavy brown hair. She is wearing a long-sleeve purple blouse.
Jennifer Benavidez

Mentorship, leadership, and understanding are key for Jennifer Benavidez, who has had a diverse career at CDCR. This Women’s History Month, Benavidez shares how important mentorship is for women in this field.

Benavidez began her career at the now-deactivated Northern California Women’s Facility in 1997. She has held many positions at CDCR, from Correctional Officer to Warden. She has worked at four different facilities and Headquarters. Working as an officer for four years at NCWF and as a Captain at Folsom Women’s Facility prepared her for her current role as acting Associate Director of Female Offender Programs and Services (FOPS) for the Division of Adult Institutions (DAI). The maturity, understanding, and knowledge she gained helped bring understanding and experience to the complex role.

You have a huge role overseeing the FOPS mission – what is your vision?

Although the title specifically reflects females, the position also oversees two health care facilities and Folsom State Prison. I will continue to improve and create a more normalized environment for the people in our care through visiting, education, and the overall daily living environment. I would also like the health care facilities to continue to build and nurture relationships and cooperation to allow the incarcerated population to participate in as many programs as possible. This will better prepare them for release or while continuing their stay in our facilities.

How did women support you as you “grew up” in the department?

I was and have always been very transparent. If I was not familiar with a process, I would not hesitate to ask for assistance. I was very eager to learn areas I was unfamiliar with and always inquisitive of the “what ifs.” People in this agency love to teach and be a part of your success. I consider myself very fortunate to have worked for strong, successful individuals who were a part of my success.

What advice do you have for women starting their correctional careers?

My advice to women starting out their careers is to stay true to yourself and not let the job or career change you. You will have an opportunity to work with so many individuals who will display different type of work styles and leadership traits. It’s important to learn from all types and model the way.

Personally speaking, I encourage women to forge ahead and move forward to the next step. Challenge is continual and continue to show your talent, experience and tenacity for future success. As we take opportunities out of our comfort zone, those challenges eventually become comfort. I encourage all women in CDCR to know all things are possible in this department, from providing mentorship to incarcerated persons to ascending to the position of Secretary and Director.

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