Story by Erica Hawkins, Intern
Photos by Krissi Khokhobashvili, Public Information Officer II
CDCR Office of Public and Employee Communications
A prison can be described as a “city within a city,” where people live, work, go to school, attend church services and participate in recreational activities. At California State Prison-Solano (SOL), five associate wardens (AWs) are charged with helping that “city” run smoothly.
Gigi Matteson, associate warden in charge of business services, and Christopher Arthur, associate warden in charge of all things security and visiting, somehow found a few free moments to discuss what being an AW is all about.
Matteson and Arthur agree there is no typical day for an AW. There are routines and protocols that must be followed – for example, morning meetings and evening debriefs – but the rest of the day seems to have a mind of its own.
“When you come in you may think you have a set calendar, but one thing happens and your whole day changes,” Matteson said.
SOL’s population is around 3,800, but walking through the prison yards it’s obvious both AWs have worked hard to add a personal touch to their jobs. Both were stopped numerous times by both inmates and staff to discuss various issues, and many inmates nodded a greeting or said hello as they walked by.
“Most of it is just getting around to your areas” said Matteson, who believes in a hands-on management style that includes checking in daily with staff and inmates to discuss challenges, successes and plans for the future.
Arthur’s office is in the watch office area, right in the middle of the prison.
“It is where the heart of the institution is located,” he said.
Both are active outside the institution’s walls; Matteson enjoys tennis and Arthur enjoys running. But that doesn’t mean the activity stops when they are at work.
“At least a couple times a week, I will go on the yard, inmates will stop you and tell you things or ask you about a concern” said Matteson, emphasizing the importance of developing rapport with staff to always know what is going on in each and every program.
Both Matteson and Arthur have worked their way up in the CDCR system, but through different avenues. Arthur comes from a correctional officer background, and Matteson started in Business Services. Both of them knew at some point they wanted to be AWs and set their sights on achieving their goals.
In addition to their daily tasks, Arthur and Matteson have taken on even more duties that contribute to SOL’s success.
One of the many hats Arthur wears is as administrator of the Peer Support Program, which trains staff to listen and offer emotional and practical support to help an employee deal with his/her situation in a confidential environment.
Matteson serves as Prison Rape Elimination Act administrator at Solano, which means she oversees the institution’s efforts to combat sexual abuse and misconduct, aimed at providing a safe living and working environment inside the prison walls.
SOL is home to many rehabilitative programs, from education and substance abuse classes to innovative programs like entrepreneurship, art, music, theater and gardening. The AWs agreed that supporting these programs not only results in a safer, positive climate at the institution.
“I learn something every day,” Arthur said. “There is always something new.”