When I entered the system, it took a month or two after the initial interview and test before I heard anything back. Then I got a letter in the mail telling me when to report for the academy.
Academy was 6 weeks. We did do PT everyday, but you were only expected to push yourself to improve every day. It wasn't like you would lose your job if you couldn't accomplish the PT goal of the day. Teh biggest challenge with the in class was to continuously pay attention. Do that, don't fall asleep and you will be fine. They also provided housing in dorm rooms through the academy to those of us that needed it.
Stiles Unit - Never heard to it refereed to as a gladiator school. The truth is gladiator schools really don't exist anymore. I worked on Ferguson and caught the tail end of the gladiator days. The safe prisons act got rid of a lot of the violence that used to be a normal occurrence. These new age inmates wouldn't be able to deal with the gladiator days, and truthfully neither would this newer generation of staff. Stiles isn't a caddillac unit, but it also isn't one of the ones that was ever "feared".
Sorry that CA sucks. The truth is anywhere you work will be what you make it. People complaining about the pay make no sense because they knew the pay when they signed up. There are a lot of benefits for working to TDCJ that make up for the pay if you take advantage of them.
I could never work for TDCJ again. The system has changed too much since I worked there, and I learned how to do the job from people who were "old school". The people that have been successful within the agency were the ones that could adapt to the new way the agency is run. I was not willing to adapt so it was time to move around. Best of luck with the move, and your career with TDCJ. Worst case scenario.... you can always try to get on with the Oil fields or Rail Road.