Deborah K. Johnson

Retired Warden with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)
Deborah Johnson



Hello, my name is Deborah K. Johnson.  I’m a etired Warden with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) with over 30 years of service.  During my tenure with CDCR, I begun my career as a Correctional Officer, and promoted to numerous classifications retiring at the level of Warden.  I worked at six different institutions including the Correctional Training Center (Academy) and at CDCR Headquarters.  Having the opportunity to work with male and female felons provided me a unique prospective in addressing the challenges and successes of both genders.

I am currently working for a non-profit organization as a Program Director, Ready to Work (RTW), which focuses on helping previously incarcerated men re-enter back into San Joaquin County to gain self-sufficiency thru employment; in hopes to reunify with family, and become a respected individual in our community.   My previous experienced working with male felons has played a pivot part, as many of our current ‘clients’ at RTW were ‘inmates’ within CDCR.  

  • I decided to study the field of corrections and make it my career because… I initially looked into the field of corrections thru a friend who accepted a position at the Youth Authority.  I completed an application for both youth and adults, but CDCR responded first.  During the training and academy process, I began to see this ‘job’ as a career.  Once I became more knowledgeable about the internal opportunities, it was obvious that corrections would be my career.  The opportunity to work with very challenging individuals, but still see the good in them became my focus. 
  • The most unusual job I’ve ever had was… The majority of my jobs prior to CDCR were pretty common, as many individuals worked in fast food restaurants, retail stores, etc.   Within corrections, I recall an assignment working at one of the fire camps with several inmate fire fighters crews dispatched to curtail wild land fires here in California.  The inmate fire fighters did a remarkable job saving homes, and other structures.  But, as the fire team was driving to another location to continue the fight, I looked out the window and felt the intense heat from the fire as it had approached the edge of the two-lane road.  The unusual part was on the opposite side of the road it begun to snow.  This was very unusual to see two very opposing forces brought together at this specific time.  
  • The hardest thing I’ve ever done is… Present a flag to the parent (mother) of a deceased correctional officer who succumbed to a disease.  
  • My favorite way to relax is… Gardening and journaling.
  • My favorite meal is… Any type of comfort food.  I really enjoy breakfast at dinner especially pancakes.
  • You’d be surprised to learn that… I played the violin and enjoy classical music.
  • I am most proud of… My personal accomplishments and achievements by family members and others. 
  • My motto is…  I have two mottos’ I like to follow. ‘Stay ready and you will not have to get ready’ and ‘the service to others will be most rewarding’.
  • If there is one piece of advise I’d like to give to anyone considering corrections as a career… Others may deny you, but never deny yourself.  The field of corrections can cause individuals some fear or doubt, but know each person has a specific purpose in life to fulfill.  Know your purpose and go full steam in spite of the difficulties.  You can overcome the challenges.
  • Share a memory or experience from your time at Delta College… In addition to my graduation from Delta College, I was invited to speak in front of an Administration of Justice class regarding my experience in corrections.  I enjoyed the questions and the interaction from the participants.