To shed light on often overlooked positions, Inside CDCR caught up with three California Correctional Institution (CCI) staff members who keep the institution on task.
While most people might think of correctional officers working in CDCR institutions, there are a variety of careers available.
Three such positions at CCI are Community Resource Manager, Executive Assistant, and Institutional Personnel Officer. Each one performs vital functions to keep the institution running.
A Day in the Life of Executive Assistant, IPO, CRM
Danell Hauk, Executive Assistant
For over 13 years, Danell Hauk has worked to help CDCR fulfill its mission.
“Keeping up with the challenge of working in an ever-changing environment is rewarding,” she said. “This job is never dull.”
Hauk said she enjoys the camaraderie as well as working with CCI management and others to compile information to meet assignment deadlines for headquarters.
Her typical day includes:
- Taking warden’s morning meeting minutes
- Manage the warden’s calendar
- Type announcements
- Assign out and then check completed assignments for accuracy before submitting to headquarters
- Welcoming guests
- Proofreading documents
- Addressing issues and questions from staff.
“I have an interest in criminal justice so a career in corrections was very intriguing,” Hauk said. “I was especially interested in working in the Warden’s office, in the hub of the politics and strategy of running a successful prison.”
During her CDCR career, she’s worked for three wardens.
“It is very interesting observing the different leadership styles and implementing of strategies to manage the population throughout an ever-changing and evolving culture,” she said.
Before joining CDCR, Hauk owned her own outdoor equipment retail business for 16 years. She also owned a café for two years.
For those considering a career in corrections, she has some advice.
“Get your foot in the door. There are ample opportunities and directions a career in corrections can take,” she said. “It’s really limitless based on a person’s ambitions.”
Outside of work, she does her best to achieve balance.
“I like to bike around our quaint town, hike in our mountains, watch my son play sports, and spend time with my family and dogs,” she said.
Angela Whitworth, Institutional Personnel Officer
Institutional Personnel Officer (IPO) Angela Whitworth has worked for CDCR since 2006. She said she chose to work for CDCR for the upward mobility, pay, benefits, and retirement.
“Personnel can be overlooked in the institution. As an IPO, I learn to appreciate all the hard work by the Personnel staff that usually goes unacknowledged,” she said. “I see the benefits that Personnel has in assisting staff in important areas of their lives.”
A typical day for an IPO is never typical.
“The Institutional Personnel Officer is a multiple-hat job. We oversee and guide in various areas such as pay, leave, and benefits, in addition to hiring and return-to-work processes. We sit on interview panels, attend multiple meetings, and work on vacancy issues,” she said. “The IPO develops, streamlines or trains staff on departmental policies.”
Laziness is a common misconception the public might have regarding CDCR employees.
“CDCR has a variety of employees. With the ever-changing department and vacancies, a lot of staff are working more than one job. They deserve applause because the work has got to get done and they go above and beyond to get it done,” she said.
For people who might be thinking of a CDCR career, she said it’s a great opportunity.
“CDCR provides great opportunities to promote from an entry level job. You can’t beat the benefits and retirement,” Whitworth said.
For work/life balance, she said carving out time can be difficult.
“It can be tough at times but I find time to read or work out. Sometimes, just sitting outside on a Sunday afternoon helps me recoup and get ready for the work week,” she said. “If you try not to let the negative get to you, it can be very rewarding.”
Alexis Quiles, Community Resource Manager
Alexis Quiles, Community Resource Manager, has worked for CDCR for three years.
“When I see gaps being bridged between the population and staff as well as the outlying community,” Quiles said. “I think it is an important factor in the progression and overall concept of what CDCR is trying to accomplish. Now, through enhanced programming, change is fostered on yards once considered so difficult there was minimal programming.”
She’s excited about the changes being introduced with the California Model.
“I am humbled when incarcerated individuals thank us for offering programming opportunities that foster meaningful change. They have to put in a lot of time and energy so it’s awesome to see the end result at graduations. The graduates are so proud of themselves and can get emotional,” she said.
Her usual work day can vary depending on what’s happening.
“My work day doesn’t start or end the same, which I love. Some days I start my day gearing up for a food fundraiser and end it in a meeting brainstorming ideas for an employee health fair,” Quiles said. “Other days start out speaking to community based organizations about bringing new programming into CCI and ending with a pop in to a DEFY Business Coaching event.”
She said they are always looking for different programs to add to their inventory.
“We have a variety of programs available ranging from reentry to Board of Parole Hearings prep to victim impact and conflict resolution,” she said.
She visits the different yards for various reasons such as:
- delivering books for programs
- meeting with inmate advisory councils (IAC) regarding proposed events and fundraisers
- speaking to program and custody staff about the different events planned on the yards.
“I regularly check in with the Facility IAC about what they have going on and get ideas about what types of programs and events they want to have,” Quiles said.
Before joining CDCR, she worked with autistic children in the applied behavioral analysis field.
“My initial reason for choosing to work for CDCR was stability but soon turned into me finding my purpose within the department. I am very grateful because I stumbled into this department as an Office Technician, not knowing much about the CRM Office,” she said. “I am absolutely loving the variety that being a CRM brings to my life.”
A common misconception is CDCR employees don’t care about the incarcerated population.
“That simply is not true. CDCR employees I have worked with are really focused on creating a better, more sustainable environment for the population,” she said. “(Our goal) is to foster and produce a rehabilitated formerly incarcerated individual who is able to reintegrate successfully back into society.”
Perceptions about CDCR can often be negative for those outside the department. If considering a career in CDCR, she recommends having an open mind.
“Working at a correctional institution by default comes with a negative connotation and many fall in to that negativity. Think about the impact you might have even if it is in one incarcerated individual’s life. Being positive and having a positive outlook on life makes your job easier and less stressful and will hopefully rub off on your peers and other incarcerated individuals you come in contact with,” she said.
Working toward career goals and upward mobility is one of her goals.
“I started as an office technician and wanted to try to promote as high as I possibly can. I promoted straight to CRM and I am still working to keep that upward mobility going by learning and absorbing everything I am taught both formally and informally,” Quiles said.
Balancing her work and life can be challenging.
“All of my children are athletes so I am always running to or picking them up from practice and going to an athletic event,” she said. “This year I have embraced being kind to myself. As a mother, it is very hard to do while not feeling guilty.”
By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
and Adrian Hart, PIO/AA, California Correctional Institution