By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications
In late May, Superintendent Erin Brock sat pensive in her office at N.A. Chaderjian, or “Chad”, as she has come to know it. She was reflecting and reminiscing on the closing chapter of her career, which began back in 1986. She appears happy and nostalgic. After all, 30 years in public service at CDCR’s Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has left an indelible mark in her life, just like she has left a mark at CDCR. She is also thinking about the wonderful uncertainty of the next chapter in her future.
Inside CDCR recently sat down with Superintendent Brock to get her thoughts on a career dedicated to DJJ and CDCR.
Tell us about your CDCR career and how you ended up where you are today.
It’s been such a rewarding experience, and I have seen so many positive changes in the system during my time here. I started out as a young, right-out-of-college youth correctional officer (YCO), and am ending as a superintendent. You can say I have been a jack-of-all-trades at DJJ, but they were opportunities that I prepared for and sought out.
After a few years as a YCO, I promoted to a youth correctional counselor (YCC), and from there, I went to Karl Holton Youth Correctional Facility (YCF), which was known at the time as a drug and treatment center. I was there for several years, and was able to promote on several occasions from a parole agent, to a treatment team supervisor, a parole agent III, and then a program administrator. After Karl Holton closed in 2003, I went back to N.A. Chaderjian as the assistant superintendent, and then followed DJJ Director Michael Minor as the superintendent here at N.A. Chaderjian/O.H. Close. I’ve held that position for the past five years. I have to say that each and every one of these jobs has made me a well-rounded individual and professional, and I’m truly thankful for the opportunities.
In your opinion, how has DJJ changed over the past 30 years?
It’s changed tremendously and in so many ways, and I am so proud to have witnessed it and played a part in the positive changes that are now being recognized on a national level. I think the culture of how we treat youth offenders has changed in such a revolutionary way. The youth, the staff, the families – we’re like a community now working together to help rehabilitate our youth, and help prepare them for life after they are released.
One thing I am particularly proud of is the way we have integrated family intervention and involvement in our programs. Statistics prove that the more involved a family is with a youthful offender, the more likely the youth is to succeed when they are released back to the community. That is what we focus on, and what we strive for each and every day we come to work.
From an operational standpoint, the staff-to-youth ratio has decreased, and we have been able to provide the treatment and services for our youth offenders more efficiently. When I started out as a YCC, that ratio was 80-to-two, at least. That number is now down to 35 or 36 youth, depending on what program they are on. Also, we now have the Integrated Behavior Treatment Model (IBTM), which delineates our core principals and is fundamental of everything we do. In addition, we have multi-disciplinary teams that work very collaboratively, and share best practices. One of the best things we do is we develop a case plan for each individual youth that enters our system, so that our approach to rehabilitation is no longer cookie-cutter, but much more targeted.
How have the youthful offenders changed over the years?
We used to categorize the youth offenders from 1 to 7, or from the least to most severe offenders. Now we get the most difficult, most challenging youth with the most pressing issues, and special needs. We are also down to a more manageable population (from 11,000 to around 700) statewide, that allows us to offer better programs and treatments where needed.
The Farrell lawsuit was recently terminated. What are your thoughts on this, and what it means to you and DJJ?
Through the Farrell lawsuit, we’ve developed six remedial plans where changes were made, the condition of confinement, the services that we provide, whether it is education, medical, health care, sexual behavior treatment. There were so many positives that came out of the termination of the Farrell lawsuit back in February, and it was one of the reasons that I stayed on because so many of us had worked so hard to see this through, to see the changes put into place. This is a hardworking, dedicated, compassionate staff that faced these challenges, and the changes were made. Now I think we’re in a good place.
What will you take with you when you leave?
I have countless memories and moments I remember fondly, but one of the things I am most proud of is having had the opportunity to promote hardworking staff that understood the DJJ mission, and met the challenges with a cool head and a passion to get the job done. I like to think that I have put great leaders in place that can inspire others to continue the great work being done in our programs and facilities.
Also, we just commemorated the 50th Anniversary of O.H. Close and the 25th Anniversary of N.A. Chaderjian, and we had a time capsule that was placed there in 1965 that came out of the wall where my office is. Seeing all those great items from generations ago really put into perspective a lot of things, especially about our history.
For instance, we found the mission statement of the O.H. Close School for Boys at the time, and it’s what our mission statement is today, so I felt like we had come full circle. At the time, Governor Brown’s father, Pat Brown, was at Close for the opening ceremony and the first graduation, and it made me think of all the graduations I have been a part of for the past 30 years. Those are really special memories.
I’m especially going to miss our special gatherings. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I always sat next to our youth at our functions, and got to interact with them. Holidays were also the times the staff really interacted and connected with one another on a more personal level, and that was very rewarding. And I’m really going to miss my assistant Lynn, who has been with the Department for 38 years, and my go-to person. Thank you all for your work and support.
If you could go back, would you have changed your career?
Not at all. I was asked a couple times to go over to the adult side of Corrections, and I said no. My passion was and is on the juvenile side. When I started at the age of 21, I never thought I would be at the DJJ for 30 years. I have grown up here, and learned so much. I would not change any of it; it’s made me who I am today.
So many people in leadership positions are retiring from DJJ. Any reason to think we’ll skip a beat or not maintain the current trend?
That’s where our succession planning, training, and fostering leadership comes in, not just at DJJ, but as a whole. It is so important to always train and prepare leaders, so that they can step in at any given moment, and ensure the operations, mission and goal of CDCR and DJJ continue. Life is full of changes, sometimes planned and sometimes unexpected, but rest assured that the positions will be filled with people that are absolutely committed and ready to continue this positive trend, and take on the challenges of the future.
Talk about DJJ’s former Director Michael Minor—who also just recently retired—and what he has meant to you.
Mike has been an incredible mentor. He is an outstanding leader that set us on the right path from the very beginning, and did not waiver, no matter how difficult or how challenging the times were.
Mike is one of the most outstanding and amazing leaders DJJ has ever had, and he has left such an indelible legacy. One of the things that I saw and learned from him is how much he personally cared about the youth in our charge, and the programs we offer, and how we can always make things better. He is also one of those few people you immediately admire and respect, because he gives you that same respect back. He has inspired and motivated people to do better. He certainly inspired me in so many ways. I am just so grateful to have shared this time with him, and to have seen him in action. I know he is going to be very much missed.
Anything else you would like to add?
I just want to thank everyone that has been part of this incredible journey. The people I have worked with throughout the years have been amazing, and the meaningful work that we are charged with has truly been transformative in more ways than I could’ve imagined. I will continue to be an advocate and supporter of the great work DJJ does. So this is not a goodbye, but a see-you-all later.