California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Embraces a Paradigm Shift with DocuSign eSignature

  • Employee experience
  • Paper record retention

Debuting in 1851 as a wooden prison ship anchored in San Francisco Bay, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is nearly as old as the state itself. Today, it employs over 63,000 people across 35 facilities. CDCR has gone through many changes over the years—most notably in 2004 when it added the “R” to its name, signaling a department-wide overhaul with a focus on rehabilitation. But, throughout its many evolutions, one thing had remained the same: a reliance on paper-based processes. 

From the Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) department, Dave Hawley is helping to change that. 

We had 150 years of this huge organization doing everything with paper and wet signatures...and then came DocuSign.
Dave Hawley
EHS Manager & Agency DocuSign Administrator
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

While electronic signature was originally introduced to keep business running during the COVID-19 shutdown, Hawley sees its potential to spark a lasting paradigm shift at CDCR. “It’s gaining traction exponentially,” he said.   

Setting the vision

When the pandemic hit, CDCR found itself in the same position as many other organizations across the globe: having to quickly transform face-to-face processes into electronic processes. When EIS brought DocuSign to the department, there was still one big unknown: “No one knew who was going to be the administrator,” Hawley explained. Hawley—who has worn many hats throughout his tenure at CDCR—stepped up to the plate, but with one caveat: “I warned my boss that it would take up the majority of my time because I’d planned on rolling DocuSign out to its maximum potential.”

Hawley learned the product inside out, working with the DocuSign Customer Success team to prioritize use cases and set up a governance and enablement structure. The team started out with a high-value, high-volume use case—employee timesheets—to land some early wins and generate momentum. Hawley held dozens of live, virtual training sessions to ease employees into the new way of doing things—while change managers in offices across the state helped grow support locally. “The more people I can get to navigate and use DocuSign to its fullest potential, the better,” said Hawley. “Those are the people that will help grow momentum because I can’t do it alone.”

What began as a few hundred DocuSign envelopes grew into tens of thousands—and Hawley is targeting 20,000 monthly users by Q1 2022. Making the move to DocuSign ushered in another big change at CDCR: the end of paper record retention. Now, timesheets automatically route from the employee to the supervisor to HR for electronic storage—enabling a fully paperless cycle.

Unlocking new use cases

As more and more employees are able to take advantage of electronic signatures and workflows, adoption continues to surge. “When we first brought DocuSign to CDCR, no one really understood what the product was capable of,” Hawley explained. “It wasn’t until people saw it in action that they realized how it can improve the different processes we have in the department.” With the help of its Customer Success Architect, CDCR is continuing to expand its DocuSign template library and grow usage across the organization. 

Since rolling out electronic timesheets, CDCR has also used eSignature to automate common HR tasks that previously required wet signatures and inter-office mail. In early 2021 when a COVID vaccine was on the horizon, CDCR launched its first PowerForm to streamline consent from over 23,000 non-remote employees who were eligible for the shot. And during two recent prison closures, DocuSign helped ease the transition process for affected employees. “That was a classic use case for a bulk send,” said Hawley. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible for both the organization and the employees who needed to select a relocation area.”

Partnering for success

For Hawley, the close partnership with CDCR’s dedicated DocuSign team helped fuel growth throughout the organization. “It’s been an excellent experience,” he said. “They were really eager to help me out and were always surprising me with things I didn’t know.” 

The team also played a role in helping CDCR roll out its first external DocuSign use case: electronically signed search warrants. Before, the fugitive unit had to fill out a form, track down the judge and acquire a signature. With DocuSign, Hawley predicts the turnaround time will be significantly shorter. 

To keep the momentum going, the Customer Success Management team supports a weekly roadmap planning session to help identify and prioritize new use cases. “Those situations where time is of the essence...those are some of the DocuSign use cases we’re looking at going forward,” he added.