Beyond the Badge, Jobs, Training and Facilities

Trainer, cadet discuss today’s correctional officers

A training sergeant and cadet stand in front of a California map and a school building use to train correctional officers.
Cadet Jonathan Morales, left, and Sergeant Destry Holmes at the RA McGee Correctional Training Center.

Cadet, instructor offer advice on joining CDCR

Shaping the next generation of rehabilitation-minded correctional officers are those who’ve seen CDCR evolve over the years. Destry Holmes, a sergeant at the Richard McGee Correctional Training Center, and cadet Jonathan Morales are two such examples. Morales is one of 250 cadets in class 4-23A scheduled to graduate the academy on June 16.

Holmes served two tours in the US Marine Corps before finding himself working a regular job in retail.

“After several years with that company, I was recruited to another big box retail electronics organization where I worked at the management level. (I was responsible) for recruiting, hiring, and overseeing logistics as the business expanded throughout the Pacific Northwest,” Holmes recalls. “When I detached from the military, I never lost the desire to continue my service to the public. Although the money was great, a career in retail electronics wasn’t fulfilling enough to retain me as an employee.”

His brother, a 27-year veteran officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, encouraged him to put his military leadership skills to use by applying to become a CDCR correctional officer.

For 17 years, he’s been with the department. The first third of his career was spent as a correctional officer at Deuel Vocational Institution before promoting to sergeant in 2010. He then later became an instructor at the Basic Correctional Officer Academy.

In honor of National Correctional Officers Week, Inside CDCR caught up with Sergeant Holmes and cadet Morales to discuss their chosen careers.

Q&A with Sergeant Destry Holmes

What did you find most interesting about your job as a Correctional Officer? How about now at the Academy?

As a military veteran, you understand and value the importance of discipline and teamwork. Being part of a law enforcement organization (you) see it on a daily basis amongst peers and supervisors. This was really inspiring as a new officer. I considered myself to be an effective officer.

Since l would try to learn one thing new each day, I vowed if I ever promoted I’d continue and encourage others to do the same. So after serving as a sergeant for five years at DVI, I applied, interviewed and became an instructor at the R.A. McGee Correctional Training Center. The greatest reward as an instructor is watching the transformation of a brand new cadet/recruit on their first day of the academy to the day of their graduation, into an officer. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back to others, to mentor and coach others, and support cadets in their desire to become excellent officers. By far, this is the most fulfilling experience ever. If I could do it until the end of time, I would.

What changes have you seen during your time with CDCR?

Over the course of my career, there have been many. Working within a correctional institution presents unique challenges to officers every day. However, the most significant change within the past decade is how we can effect change, with professional communications with the incarcerated population. It’s not always easy, but it’s a highly desirable skill to have.

What advice do you have for someone considering a career as a correctional officer?

My advice for anyone considering a career in corrections is preparation. Preparation is key in the pursuit of being an effective peace officer. Being disciplined physically and mentally. Being knowledgeable in your profession and taking ownership of your career. Joining CDCR over 17 years ago was the best career decision I ever made.

Q&A with cadet Jonathan Morales

(Editor’s note: Morales is a cadet in class 4-23A at the Basic Correctional Officer Academy.)

What did you do before deciding to join CDCR? Did you have anyone encouraging you to apply?

I was working a regular warehouse job then a good friend of mine that I’ve known for years encouraged me to pursue this career. I chose to join CDCR for a challenging, meaningful, and rewarding career.

What was it like to go through the recruitment process?

It was a long, but fun journey. If you’re considering joining, be ready to learn and expect to be challenged. My advice for someone just beginning the process is to have patience and stay dialed in: study, practice, and ask questions.

What have you learned that maybe you didn’t expect before becoming a cadet?

Something I learned before becoming a cadet that I didn’t expect is the importance of effective communication, sound decision making, exercising good judgment and what it feels like to be pepper sprayed. (Editor’s note: Part of the training includes chemical agents.)

How has your impression of the department changed since joining CDCR?

My impression of CDCR has changed drastically. I’m learning about the importance of professionalism and how our demeanor impacts the safety of staff and the population in the institution.

To learn more about the correctional officer selection process, watch this video.

Interested applicants can apply online at

By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Photo by Traci Skinner, R.A. McGee Correctional Training Center

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