Beyond the Badge

Agent Baiza pairs interns with career pros

Parole agents with children, Cookie Monster and Elmo.
Parole Agent Baiza, left, is involved in numerous community activities.

Women’s History Month celebrates the stories and changes brought about by women all over the world, including Parole Agent III Elsa Baiza.

Baiza, a Parole Agent (PA) III Supervisor for the Division of Adult Parole Operations’ (DAPO) Seaport GPS Unit.

Agent Baiza coordinates her unit’s popular internship program with San Diego State University (SDSU). She mentors and pairs college students starting their careers in criminal justice with established CDCR parole agents.

Agent Baiza also facilitates several charitable events throughout the year, including monthly food box deliveries and annual holiday shopping trips for parolees and their families. She balances all of it with her own big family and dedication to personal fitness.

Agent Baiza: Background and history

Supported by a strong family work ethic and encouraged by two older sisters launching their professional careers, Agent Baiza earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from San Diego State University in 2001.

While studying full-time, she waited tables in her aunt’s restaurant. She eventually earned an internship in social work that introduced her to parole and probation. Baiza says women in her field have always been supportive of her growth, especially her sisters. “As an intern, a social worker, an agent, and a probation officer, the majority of my supervisors have been females. All who have helped mold me and help me make the decisions I make.”

Baiza dipped a toe in corrections early in her education, but started her professional career in social work. After earning her degree, she became a senior protective worker with the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) in San Diego County. Her sister, the Employee Resource Officer at Calipatria State Prison (CAL), encouraged her to join CDCR. She worked six years with HHSA before earning a position as a Parole Agent I in the San Diego Parole Unit.

Due to realignment, she left state service in October 2012 and returned to San Diego County where she was quickly promoted to senior deputy probation officer. She returned to CDCR’s DAPO in February 2017. “I came right back as soon as there was an opening,” Baiza said. “I didn’t want to leave in the first place.” She quickly climbed the ranks and was promoted to Parole Agent III in November 2021.

SDSU Internship Program

Two years ago, Agent Baiza inherited the reins of the SDSU Internship Program from its creator, Jon Stern. Each semester, up to eight interns are paired with parole agents for at least 130 hours of job shadowing. Many enjoy the program so much, they choose to exceed the required hours or return for a second semester for more credits.

Interns attend parole meetings, go on a ride-along, and develop key contacts with their mentors. They are taught to assess parolee risks and refer programs for support, prioritize community safety, and be familiar with available resources in the area.

Individual mentorship and group meetings with parole agents and students create open dialogue. “The goal isn’t to put people back in prison. They get to know it’s not just about going out and arresting people,” Baiza said. “They see the humanity in this profession.”

Baiza also meets students where they are. She regularly addresses classes at SDSU, educating students about the sex offender population and the difference in supervision from parole and probation.

Volunteer work

Agent Baiza maintains her work/life balance by volunteering in her community. She introduced the Feeding San Diego program to the Chula Vista Parole Office. With the help of her team each month, she assists to coordinate the delivery of food boxes for parolees, families, and newly-released individuals who could use extra assistance. “Elsa is always willing to help others and is a very easy-going person,” said PA III Myrna Alonzo.

Baiza also organizes community events that build relationships between youth and law enforcement. STAR PAL, a not-for-profit San Diego-based organization, hosts an annual Christmas giveaway providing dinner and toys to underserved families. She also coordinates several “Shop with a Cop” events with DAPO agents and children during the Christmas season.

“By volunteering for these things I try to make connections with the service providers in the community. The agents then have more tools and resources in their tool belt to help families,” Baiza said.

Learn more about STAR PAL.

Advice for other women

Baiza also participates in CrossFit and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu along with her family and is the assistant coach for her son’s little league team.

“Learn everything you can and never stop training. Find resources that lift you up and share them with others to raise them up,” Baiza said when asked if she had advice for women considering growing their career. “I think it’s a great thing when young women and girls look up to the female agents and officers out there and say they want to be law enforcement as well when they see women in these roles.”

She says plenty of opportunities are opening up in her field every day, with several people planning to retire from her office in the next two years. “People who have held positions for years, sometimes decades, are retiring. Tons of people are leaving behind open positions that need new talent.”

Learn more about Jon Stern.

By Tessa Outhyse, Information Officer I, OPEC
Photos courtesy of PA III Agent Baiza

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