Rehabilitation Professional of the Year

2021 Rehabilitation Professional of the Year

The Rehabilitation Professional of the Year Award is given annually to the person or persons who help facilitate the successful reintegration of the individuals in our care back to their communities equipped with the tools to be drug-free, healthy, and employable members of society by providing education, treatment, rehabilitative, and restorative justice programs, all in a safe and humane environment.


Dr. Nina Thomas, Principal at California Correctional Institution 

In 2008, on a whim Nina Thomas applied to become a CDCR teacher. To her surprise, she got the job and loved it. Since then, she has been a model of excellence.

She discovered the challenges of working with students at all education levels and developed individualized learning strategies for them to succeed.

She was promoted to principal in 2019 and has become known for her outside-of-the box thinking, deep knowledge of the curriculum and belief in her students.

As her institution was responding to COVID-19, Dr. Thomas drafted telework documents, reopening plans and other procedures implemented by principals throughout her region.

She brought together a group of her peers in regular conversations to share challenges, best practices and brainstorm suggestions for school improvement.

Dr. Thomas also developed a Leadership Academy this year for new school administrators.

Steven Duncan, Correctional Officer at California Medical Facility

For Stephan Duncan, working as a correctional officer is not simply a job – it is his mission.

He plays a pivotal role in his institution’s education department by making sure students get to class. If they are absent, he finds out why and advocates for them to attend.

Officer Duncan is a positive role model for students and education staff alike. He comes to work with a smile on his face and is always willing to help with extra tasks.

He advises staff and teachers on how best to deal with security challenges and has even conducted restorative justice conversations with incarcerated people.

Most importantly, Officer Duncan provides California Medical Facility with the safety and security needed for a successful learning environment.