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Career Pathways for Incarcerated People

Program graduates stand in their caps and gowns
A graduation ceremony was held to honor the first cohort of the Construction Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program in the San Diego area.

Contributing to a Well-Trained, Quality Workforce

CDCR’s goal is for every incarcerated person to take advantage of positive programming and rehabilitative opportunities such as education, self-help, vocational and other programs. These career pathways are intended to ease the transition back into their communities and reduce recidivism.

Part of a person’s rehabilitation includes work assignments, which teach valuable skills for finding jobs after prison. Incarcerated people can learn construction, dog training, computer coding, and working in hospice care, among other jobs.

Every job is dignified, and CDCR strives to provide job opportunities and training similar to those outside of prison.

a formerly incarcerated person poses with his new work truck

California State Agency Hires of Formerly Incarcerated People

State agencies often partner with CDCR to provide incarcerated people who are preparing for release access to civil service positions. CALPIA’s Transition to Employment Program assists with creating a CalJOBS account, outlining a CALPIA Work History Report and a resume, and obtaining personal identification like a birth certificate, state ID or social security card.

Civil service exams and hiring fairs provide an opportunity for skilled workers to ask questions and network with potential employers.

Earning Credits

Incarcerated people receive credits off of their prison terms for work assignments, as well as rehabilitation, education and self-help programs.

Job Criteria

Work assignments take into account the person’s needs and wants, eligibility and availability of desired work or program activity, an institution’s security and operational needs, and the individual’s overall health and safety.


Neither CDCR nor CALPIA profit from private industries. Pay is dependent on the assignment and required skill level.


incarcerated people explore a new career pathway in masonry

Featured Story

California Men’s Colony (CMC) masonry course teaches teamwork, precision

Men at CMC are learning a new trade at the institution: masonry.

View more success stories on Inside CDCR

Frequently Asked Questions


It is CDCR’s mission to prepare incarcerated people for successful reentry into our communities. One of the most important things someone needs upon release from prison is a job. Work assignments provide opportunities for incarcerated people to learn technical skills as well as personal responsibility, accountability, and how to work effectively on a team. At the same time, CDCR is changing many work assignments from full-time to half-time, both to provide greater flexibility to have a paid work assignment and participate in other, unpaid rehabilitative programs, and to increase wages without additional cost to the taxpayers.

CDCR proposes increasing pay for support and fire crew assignments statewide. Wages will double for most incarcerated workers. The pay schedule has been unchanged for 30 years with the exception of increases for specialized positions such as drug treatment counselors and electrical/engineering workers.

Support Worker Wages

Pay Scale LevelCurrent Pay RangeProposed Pay Range
Level 1 (Lead)$0.32-$0.37/hour$0.64-$0.74/hour
Level 2 (Special Skill)$0.19-$0.32/hour$0.38-$0.64/hour
Level 3 (Technician)$0.15-$0.24/hour$0.30-$0.48/hour
Level 4 (Semi-Skilled)$0.11-$0.18/hour$0.22-$0.36/hour
Level 5 (Laborer)$.08-$.13/hour$0.22
**New pay ranges for incarcerated workers effective as of April 1, 2024.

Conservation (Fire) Crew Wages

Job TitleCurrent Daily RateProposed Daily Rate
#1 on Crew$5.12$10.24
#2 on Crew$3.90$7.80
1st and 2nd Saw$3.34$6.68
All Other Crew Members$2.905.80
**New pay ranges for incarcerated workers effective as of April 1, 2024.

Work Assignments and Career Training

CDCR will reduce the number of full-time work assignments and increase the number of half-time assignments. Many incarcerated people with full-time assignments are not available to attend rehabilitative programs if they conflict with their work schedule. These changes expand opportunities for incarcerated people to work and program, earning them a paycheck as well as credits for successful completion of programs. It is expected 75 percent of assignments will now be half-time.

The California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) wage schedule is separate from CDCR’s and is not impacted by these changes.

CDCR proposes eliminating all unpaid work assignments. Unpaid positions, such as dining room and yard worker jobs, were created to give the incarcerated population something to do. However, the rehabilitative landscape has greatly shifted, and incarcerated people have access to many rehabilitative programs. This change recognizes the value the incarcerated workforce provides while offering more incentives to take a work assignment.

These changes will be in effect beginning April 1, 2024.


Parolees statewide have the opportunity to enroll in financially supported pre-apprenticeship vocational programs, which provide classroom instruction, hands-on experience, equipment, work boots, and potential placement into well-paying union jobs. There are more than 70 pre-apprenticeship programs offered throughout the state.

Parolees need little to no experience in the trades and are referred to the programs through their parole agents. Applicants must attend an initial meeting and complete an application. Completion timelines vary depending on the program, lasting from four weeks to several months. Most of these apprenticeships are free of charge, but some do require the participant to pay union dues.