Prison PIO ready to retire
Last updated 12/20/2019 at 4:14am | View PDF
Wasco State Prison Public Information Officer Martin Herrera is ready for retirement.
His last day on the job will be Dec. 26, after a career of 25 years with the State of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Foremost on Herrera's mind these days is the Christmas season, with the donations made by the prison employees to the children of Wasco elementary schools along with his visits to the schools.
"The prison staff donates Christmas toys through fundraisers throughout the year," Herrera said. "Only a few officers are able to go out into the community and deliver the items."
Herrera was born in Blythe and his entire childhood was spent there. "Blythe is separated from California and Arizona by the Colorado River," he said.
He attended college in Blythe. After college, he applied to the California Highway Patrol and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in 2003 and in 2004 he was hired by the CDCR. "The entire process takes about a year," he said.
The first prison Herrera worked at was Ironwood Prison in Blythe. He and his wife both worked at the prison.
Herrera was attracted to the California prison system for several reasons, because they offered recruitment bonuses, benefits, paid holidays, advancement opportunities and annual vacations.
"I was working in a dead-end job, and the best move I made was to accept the offer from the state prison system," Herrera said. "Because of Blythe's remote location, not many recruits were selecting small valley towns to work in."
Herrera also worked at North Kern Prison in 2000. He obtained a few years experience as an officer. In the mid-2000s, he took the sergeant exam and passed. He was promote to sergeant in 2005 and relocated to Wasco State Prison.
Herrera was promoted to lieutenant and public information officer in 2011. "I was open to new assignments and was given several special ones."
Herrera says that investigating crimes within the prison is very exciting. Those crimes are prosecuted by the Kern County District Attorney's Office, he said.
For Herrera, the most rewarding part of the job is being able to contribute back to the community as a public servant.
"Another rewarding factor is knowing how much people appreciate what we do," he said.
Herrera described the prison as its own city.
"Within our walls, we have a fire department, police officers, school, college, play yard, doctor's office, dentist's office [and stock] special medicine for major illnesses that happen here," Herrera said.
He also said that when talking about the rewarding parts of the job, "What comes to mind is the how my career has afforded and provided for my family."
Herrera mentioned that he has encountered professional criminals and notorious criminals at different times.
He feels that one of the most important skills is communication with co-workers and the inmates. "Communication is the biggest tool," he said.
For Herrera, he always knew he wanted to work in law enforcement and he feels like he was able to accomplish his wish.
"My plans after retirement are to start on the honey-do list my wife has prepared for me, travel and spend more time visiting my children and two granddaughters," Herrera said. "My wife, Jeanne, who is also employed by CDCR, has a few years before she is eligible to retire."