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For San Leandro Criminal Justice: Corrections Program Director Jim Kanhai, It’s a New Beginning

July 1, 2020

If you don’t believe that writer and cartoonist Allen Saunders was right when he said “Life is what happens while we are making other plans”, just ask Jim Shimon Kanhai.


When Kanhai retired in 2018 from his job as Probation Services Manager for the County of San Mateo, his plans were fairly straightforward: Relax. Travel. Enjoy life.


And that’s exactly what he did—for 18 months.


“I looked forward to retiring for three years,” recalls Kanhai. “After I did, I went to Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand. I completed plenty of projects around the house, and golfed and fished—a lot. It was great at first. But after a year and a half, I started getting restless.”


With his wife still working and his kids in school, retirement wasn’t as much fun as Kanhai imagined it would be. He started scouting employment websites and spotted a position that caught his eye: Program Director/Instructor for the Criminal Justice: Corrections program at Carrington College’s San Leandro campus. A month later, he landed the position.


After eight months on the job, Kanhai says returning to work is one of best decisions he’s ever made.


“It feels great to be back in the game—and to know I’m leading a program that matters now more than ever,” says Kanhai. “The role and practice of law enforcement is understandably a hot topic these days, both inside and outside the classroom. The conversations we’re all having about criminal justice are important, and they give me the opportunity to remind our students that the foundation of everything they do is a responsibility to always be professional, ethical, fair, firm, and disciplined.”


This Associate of Science degree program in Criminal Justice: Corrections, Kanhai explains, prepares students for a variety of law enforcement-related careers. Many graduates initially find work in security and develop entry-level skills while they pursue employment as a correctional officer.


“Students in our program have a variety of goals,” says Kanhai. “Some are interested in working as detention or correctional officers, bodyguards, or security officers. The structure and discipline of our program, which includes Standards and Training for Corrections (STC) Adult Core Academy, offers them a level of education, experience, and understanding that provides a real advantage when they enter the workforce.”


Kanhai remembers what it’s like to be a student, and says his experiences in the classroom have helped shape the kind of teacher he’s become.


“I make a point to be supportive and flexible because I know that most of our students are doing a lot more than going to school,” he says. “They’re often working full-time and many are raising a family. It can be tough. I came to the United States from Fiji when I was 20 years old and worked warehouse and department store jobs so I could go to school at night. I know what it’s like to struggle and juggle.”


He also knows what it feels like to succeed.


Just nine years after arriving in the United States, Kanhai had earned his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and his Master of Arts in Public Administration, both from California State University-East Bay. The same year he completed his master’s (1997), he also became an American citizen.


Kanhai began his law enforcement career with the County of San Mateo as Group Supervisor, counseling and mentoring detained juveniles. For 15 years, he worked as a Probation Officer, supervising juvenile and adult probationers, making arrests, and participating in Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) & GANG Taskforce deployments. During the last four years of his law enforcement career, Kanhai supervised officers attached to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department Gang Intelligence Unit and San Mateo County Narcotics Taskforce.


“If someone had told me when I was a kid that one day I’d move to America, marry and raise a family in California, work in law enforcement for more than 20 years, retire, and then return to work as a college program director and instructor, I never would have believed them. But that’s what happened. It’s my version of the American dream.”


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