Above the Call, Awards and Appreciation

CDCR honors 68 at 2018 Medal of Valor ceremony

Medalofvalor 42

16 receive CDCR’s highest award for heroism at the Las Vegas shooting

CDCR honored 68 employees September 14, 2018, during its 33rd annual Medal of Valor Ceremony.

(Watch the ceremony on the CDCR YouTube channel.)

The honorees included 16 employees present at the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting in Las Vegas who acted heroically. Also honored were 17 Pelican Bay State Prison employees who were awarded Gold Star medals after being brutally attacked during a large-scale riot at the prison last year.

“Today, we honor heroes who have been placed in situations that call for action that is above and beyond the normal demands of duty,” said acting CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz. “While facing danger or adversity, many of these men and women have demonstrated split-second decision making, bravery and integrity.”

The employees who acted heroically at the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting in Las Vegas were honored with the Medal of Valor, the highest honor CDCR bestows upon its employees. They faced a disaster almost beyond comprehension – the worst mass shooting in modern history in the United States. One of the honorees, Lt. Derrick “Bo” Taylor, was killed during the shooting. CDCR broadcast a special video about the actions of staff and the profound impact that event had on them.

The Gold Star Medal is awarded to employees who display courage in the face of immediate peril in acting to save the life of another person. On May 24, 2017, approximately 130 inmates launched a premeditated attack on the small group of correctional staff in the prison’s main yard. The officers were able to overcome the attack and quell the riot despite some of them suffering severe injuries.

“Today’s honorees, their noble acts and innovative ideas are an inspiration to us all,” Diaz said.

CDCR also awarded Silver and Bronze Star Medals, Distinguished Service Medals, Unit Citation Medals and Employee Recognition Awards.

The Medal of Valor Ceremony was broadcast live on the CACorrections Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cacorrections and can be found in the video archives.

Medal of Valor

The Medal of Valor is the Department’s highest award, earned by employees distinguishing themselves by conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of correctional service. The employee shall display great courage in the face of immediate life-threatening peril and with full knowledge of the risk involved. The act should show professional judgment and not jeopardize operations or the lives of others.

Last year, 16 CDCR employees were caught in the worst mass shooting in the modern history of the United States. On Oct. 1 last year, off-duty CDCR employees were scattered throughout a large crowd at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. Suddenly, a man high above the crowd in a nearby hotel room began firing indiscriminately into the crowd. The shooting continued for about 10 minutes, leaving 58 dead and 851 injured. Amid the carnage, CDCR employees acted heroically to save lives and protect the public.

Todd Wienke, Correctional Sergeant, California City Correctional Facility

Despite being wounded three times, Sergeant Wienke performed heroically. He put his girlfriend on the ground and shielded her as soon as he heard the gunfire. That’s when he was wounded the first time. As he moved himself, his companion and two victims with head wounds to safety, he was wounded again. Once out of the shooting area, he helped set up a make-shift triage area and assisted emergency services personnel. He said he doesn’t recall when he was shot a third time. He continued to help others even though he was wounded.

Craig Lee, Correctional Officer, Valley State Prison

Officer Lee responded to the shooting by running into the gunfire several times to help gunshot victims. As the gunfire continued, he provided medical aid to a person shot in the side. He and others managed to get the victim to an area less exposed to the gunfire. Lee then ran back into the open area to help others. He also checked at least eight bodies for vital signs and moved four or five people out of the area. Each time, he ran back into the open area. Officer Lee stayed on the scene for more than 40 minutes.

Javier Chavez, Correctional Officer, California City Correctional Facility

As soon the gunfire erupted, Officer Chavez shielded his pregnant wife. Despite the continuing gunfire, he began moving her and another group of people to safety. Along the way, he encouraged other people frozen with fear to move out of the gunman’s sights. He kept people focused on him and his leadership as he guided them to safety.

Kristy Hoyt, Licensed Vocational Nurse, California City Correctional Facility

During the mass panic as the gunfire continued, Kristy Hoyt provided medical care to the wounded. Sometimes, she aided people within feet of where shots were hitting. As she assisted the injured to safety, she came across a small group of girls who had been separated from their family. She gathered them and also directed them to safety.

Eric Olson, Correctional Officer, California City Correctional Facility

Amid the gunfire, Officer Olson guided his wife and others to safety. He and his wife tried to keep people from panicking and moved them from danger. Once he was sure of his wife’s safety, he retrieved his identification badge and off-duty weapon. Placing himself in danger a second time, he returned to the shooting area. There he assisted more people to safety. He found a wounded woman and helped her get medical assistance. Olson is currently attending the Division of Adult Parole Operations Parole Academy to become a parole agent.

Stephanie Ortega, Registered Nurse, Ironwood State Prison

Stephanie Ortega was part of a group of CDCR employees when the gunfire erupted. Using barricades as shelter, Ortega and others tried to move to safety. The group came across a severely wounded woman, who was not breathing. Ortega took turns performing CPR while another staff performed mouth-to-mouth, briefly bringing the woman back. They loaded the woman onto a table and helped carry her out as she continued chest compressions.

Kelli Madsen, Correctional Lieutenant, Ironwood State Prison

Lt. Madsen was celebrating her days-old engagement. She was part of a group that included fellow CDCR employees when the gunfire erupted. Madsen and other CDCR staffers came across a severely wounded woman, who was not breathing. She performed mouth-to-mouth while other CDCR staffers performed CPR, briefly bringing the woman back. They loaded the woman onto a table and helped carry her out as another staffer continued chest compressions. All the while, the shooter continued to fire into the area.

John Dias, Correctional Officer, North Kern State Prison

Officer Dias and his wife were near the stage when the shooting started. He first thought the shooter was among the crowd, but he soon located the source. Timing his movement with lulls in the shooting, Dias led a group to safety. When shots sounded, they took cover. When the shooting stopped they moved. He was able to lead the group through an open gate and out of the danger zone.

Albert Powers, Correctional Sergeant, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison
Cynthia Powers, Licensed Vocational Nurse, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison

After shots first rang out, the Powers, who are married, helped a wounded man and his girlfriend to safety. The Powers successfully shielded the pair from gunfire. The grateful couple later contacted the Powers to express their gratitude for saving their lives and attended the Medal of Valor ceremony. Albert also took turns with other CDCR staff in giving CPR to a fatally wounded woman.

Christopher Pierce, Associate Warden, Ironwood State Prison

Associate Warden Pierce was part of a group of CDCR employees when the gunfire erupted. The group dived to the ground. Pierce and others shielded friends and family members. Between volleys of gunfire, he acted. Using his active-shooter training, he yelled “Go!” and got the group moving to safety. In part due to his training, the group made it to safety.

Catherine Ploesch, Correctional Officer, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison
Keith Ploesch, Correctional Officer, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison

The first round of gunfire found the Ploesches with a group that included their two adult daughters. With no regard for their own safety, Keith and Catherine shielded their daughters and others with their own bodies. As the gunfire continued, they moved to safety.

Derrick “Bo” Taylor, Correctional Lieutenant (posthumous), Ventura Conservation Camp

Fifteen of our officers braved the gunfire and returned from that fatal night. One didn’t. Lieutenant Taylor was felled that night. His sons, Greg and Kyle Taylor, accepted their father’s medal on behalf of the Taylor family. CDCR’s knowledge of Bo’s last movements comes from one mother, who credits him with saving five people during the shooting.

“You were standing next to my son and daughter and their three friends at the Route 91 concert,” the mother wrote. “There was a lot of confusion and my kids thought firecrackers were being lit off and it was part of the show. I’m so sorry to say that the loss of your life saved my children. Words cannot express the overall sadness I have for your family or the deeply indebted feelings I have for you. I know that nothing can change what happened on that terrible night but I hope your family can find solace in the fact that you saved five other people. From what I’ve read about you, you seem like that kind of man in life and now in death.”

Jason Peacock, Correctional Officer, California Institution for Men

After he realized the sounds were gunfire and not fireworks, Officer Peacock and his group moved to a 10-foot fence. Realizing they couldn’t scale it, he grabbed fence-like metal barricades and used them as makeshift ladders. His group was able to climb to safety. Back in his room, he retrieved his badge and off-duty weapon. He returned to the danger area to help law enforcement clear the area around the shooting.

Greg Caravas, Correctional Lieutenant, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison

At first, he thought he was hearing fireworks but then he saw the muzzle flashes from the Mandalay Bay Hotel. With no concern for his own safety, he used his body to shield his wife and 16-year-old daughter. Coming into the concert earlier, Lt. Caravas had spotted a small exit near the medical tent. While staying between them and the gunfire, he guided them to the exit and to safety.

Gold Star Medal

The Gold Star Medal is awarded for heroic deeds under extraordinary circumstances. The employee shall display courage in the face of immediate peril in acting to save the life of another person.

Stuart Ingle, Correctional Counselor II, Sierra Conservation Center

On his way to work last January, Counselor Stuart Ingle came upon a vehicle that had slid off the road and into a ditch. Ingle stopped his vehicle and helped two adults from the car. He recognized the family as his neighbors. He had just freed their 8-year-old daughter when another vehicle suddenly crested the hill. The vehicle slid out-of-control toward Ingle and the little girl. He threw the girl out of the vehicle’s path and then jumped on top of her, placing himself between the girl and the oncoming vehicle. Fortunately, the out-of-control vehicle missed them both. Ingle and the girl escaped injury.

Anival Avila, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Zach Basnett, Correctional Sergeant, Pelican Bay State Prison
Thomas Brewer, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Sergio Chavez, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Christopher Corpstein, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Aaron Featherstone, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
John Franz, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Joshua Hendrix, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Paul Hicks Jr., Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Michael Humphrey, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Zackery McCully, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Dale McDonald, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Travis Molina, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Daniel Mount Jr., Correctional Lieutenant, Pelican Bay State Prison
Aaron Schaad, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Shawn Tayman, Correctional Officer, Pelican Bay State Prison
Cody Vick, Correctional Sergeant, Pelican Bay State Prison

About 130 inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison attacked a much smaller group of Correctional staff at Pelican Bay State Prison on May 24, 2017. Officers had to individually fight off or face down as many as 20 attacking inmates. Some of the officers were overwhelmed by the sheer number of attackers, who battered them.

They were knocked to the ground and then kicked by the attacking inmates before other officers could rescue them. In one attack, the inmates wrenched an officer’s baton from him but another officer confronted the inmate and regained control of the baton. Other officers attempted to fight their way to officers who were down, as attacking inmates swarmed them.

Officers in towers responded to the danger with fire from their less-than-lethal weapons or state-issued rifles, forcing inmates to back away from the downed officers. Other officers used batons, chemical weapons, their training and sometimes their fists to quell the attackers. 

There was a real danger that the inmates would overwhelm the officers and take control of the yard. If that had happened, the efforts to regain control would have possibly had lethal consequences to staff and inmates. However, these officers – through their bravery and combined actions – were able to overcome this mass attack and quell the riot despite some of them suffering severe injuries.

Silver Star Medal

The Silver Star Medal is awarded for acts of bravery under extraordinary or unusual circumstances. The employee shall display courage in the face of potential peril while saving or attempting to save the life of another person or distinguish him/herself by performing in stressful situations with exceptional tactics or judgement.

Kevin Jacobs, Correctional Officer, Deuel Vocational Institution

Dinner out with family turned into a life-or-death situation as Jacobs found himself trying to save a gunshot victim’s life. He was eating dinner in a fast-food restaurant with his nephew when he heard at least three gunshots. The officer spotted a silver Dodge Challenger in the restaurant’s parking lot with the driver side door open and the window shattered. He told his nephew to call 911 and, disregarding the potential of more gunfire, ran to the vehicle. He found the victim had a faint pulse. Realizing the situation was dire, Jacobs pulled the man from the car and began CPR. He continued CPR until police officers arrived and took over. Unfortunately, the victim did not survive. Jacobs later identified the suspected shooter, who had been detained by police after the suspect allegedly carjacked a woman’s vehicle.

Chris Peterson, Correctional Officer, Folsom State Prison

Peterson was boating on the San Joaquin River when he saw a man in the water yelling for help. Without regard for his own safety, Peterson dove into the cold water to assist the victim. The victim was suffering a “cardiac event.” The victim’s brother was trying unsuccessfully to rescue him, and was himself at risk of drowning. Petersen pulled both men to shore and got them out of the water. He asked the victim’s brother to call 911, while he began CPR. He performed CPR for approximately 20 minutes until emergency personnel arrived. Despite the officer’s efforts, the victim did not survive. Even though exhausted, Officer Peterson recovered the victim’s raft and belongings from the river and turned them over to his family.

David Toman, Supervising Registered Nurse II, Folsom State Prison

Toman was spending time with his family at a state park. He was in the middle of a river, waist deep in the ice cold water, when he heard somebody yell “help” next to some boulders from which kids were jumping into the river. Toman then saw something floating down the middle of the river, which turned out to be a man who yelled for help before disappearing under the water. Toman swam to the man who was now face down and about 2 feet under the water that was swiftly whisking him away. He flipped the victim on his back, and pulled him to shore. The victim was breathing, but non-responsive. About 30 seconds later, the victim coughed up water and sputum, becoming responsive.

Bronze Star Medal

The Bronze Star is awarded for saving a life without placing oneself in peril. The employee shall have used proper training and tactics in a professional manner to save, or clearly contribute to saving, the life of another person.

Joel M. Herrera, Correctional Sergeant, San Quentin State Prison

What should have been a normal commute home from San Quentin State Prison for Herrera, rapidly turned into a life-and-death situation involving a young boy. The boy had been struck by a vehicle and was lying unconscious on the ground. Herrera rushed to help. He saw that the boy, who was wearing heavy winter clothes, was struggling to breathe. Herrera, a former EMT firefighter, discovered the boy had a breathing tube and the filter had been knocked away, allowing the clothes to block the tube. Herrera cut the clothes away with a pocket knife. The boy began to recover his breath and he was conscious and breathing when the ambulance arrived.

Rory Taylor, Correctional Officer, Central California Women’s Facility
Curtiss Ursenbach, Correctional Lieutenant, Avenal State Prison

Ursenbach and Taylor, while off-duty, saved a neighbor who had stopped breathing. Ursenbach was at his personal residence when he heard screaming coming from his neighbor’s apartment. He found his male neighbor lying over the back of the couch. The victim was not breathing and did not have a pulse. He immediately asked his wife to call 911 and began CPR on the victim. Taylor, who is also a neighbor, arrived to assist with the CPR. Medical staff at the hospital said had it not been for the quick 911 contact combined with the response by the off-duty CDCR employees to begin CPR, the victim would likely have died.

Henry Moran, Correctional Counselor I, Substance Abuse and Treatment Facility

Moran witnessed male patient assault medical personnel at a hospital. The patient jumped off a gurney and punched an EMT in the face and attacked a nurse. Moran intervened. The patient swung at him, grazing his face. Moran wrestled the patient to the floor. The patient kicked, tried to push Moran off and bit him, causing a small puncture wound. However, Moran was tougher and stronger, subduing the patient until security personnel arrived. His actions likely saved more hospital personnel from being injured and safely ended a terrifying attack.

The Unit Citation is awarded for great courage displayed by a departmental unit in the course of conducting an operation in the face of immediate life-threatening circumstances.

Unit Citation Medal

Trevor Hatley, Parole Agent II, Supervisor, Redding GPS Parole Unit
Brad Putnam, Parole Agent I, Redding GPS Parole Unit
Lance Nystrom, Parole Agent I, Redding GPS Parole Unit
Joseph Eldridge, Parole Agent I, Redding GPS Parole Unit
Matthew Ledbetter, Parole Agent I, Redding GPS Parole Unit
George Checa, Parole Agent I, Redding GPS Parole Unit
Daniel Carroll, Parole Agent I, Red Bluff Parole Unit
Matthew Mauck, Parole Agent I, Redding GPS Parole Unit

When a man began a shooting rampage across a quiet county in Northern California, these agents were there to answer the call for assistance. On Nov. 14, an active shooter was reported at the Rancho Tehama Elementary School in a rural area of Tehama County. Mutual aid was requested of all available law enforcement in the area. These agents responded. “The thought was one thing only, to help our local community and help prevent the taking of human life by using the highest level of training to stop the shooter from hurting children and the people of the community,” Mauck said. DAPO responders were instrumental in securing multiple crime scenes and rendering aid to victims as well as handling security for the command post and perimeter.

Distinguished Service Medal

The Distinguished Service Medal is awarded for an employee’s exemplary work conduct with the Department for a period of months or years, or involvement in a specific assignment of unusual benefit to the Department.

Marty Giannini, Program Administrator, NA Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility

During his 25-plus years with the Division of Juvenile Justice, Giannini has shown an unwavering work ethic and willingness to accept all assignments with enthusiasm and professionalism. His special interest, and the focus of his career, is high risk youth. When the Integrated Behavior Treatment Model was implemented, he embraced the model. Most any day, you will find him working effectively with groups of youth – from completing a landscaping project to organizing intramural sporting events. Many former and current youth have identified Giannini as the person who took a chance, supported them, and helped them believe they were capable of change.

Board of Parole Hearings Executive Management Team

Jennifer Shaffer, Executive Officer, Board of Parole Hearings
Rhonda Skipper-Dotta, Chief Deputy Commissioner, Board of Parole Hearings
Sandra Maciel, Chief Deputy Commissioner, Board of Parole Hearings
Jennifer Neill, Chief Counsel, Board of Parole Hearings
Cliff Kusaj, Chief Psychologist, Board of Parole Hearings
Brian Kelley, Chief of Investigations, Board of Parole Hearings

The BPH executive team has made the board a model for parole authorities nationally and internationally. They have worked to professionalize the board and incentivize offender rehabilitation through parole decisions that are fair and that protect the public.

Some of their accomplishments include:

  • Successfully expanding parole hearings to include youth offender hearings, elderly parole hearings, and hearings for juveniles sentenced to life without the possibility of parole
  • administrative law judge training for all commissioners and deputy commissioners
  • expanding CDCR’s Inmate Locator on CDCR’s Website to include each inmate’s parole eligible date
  • implementing parole reviews for nonviolent offenders
  • going paperless and streamlining processes for board and CDCR staff statewide, including all parole processes, mentally disordered offender evaluations, sexually violent predator screenings, and eligibility determinations for youth offenders, elderly parole inmates, juveniles sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and nonviolent offenders
  • conducting investigations for an unprecedented number of parole grants, pardons, and commutations of sentence
  • transferring all parole revocation processes to the courts under Criminal Justice Realignment
  • and dramatically increasing the board’s transparency and professional training.

Sigifredo Rizo, Parole Agent III, Senior Investigator, Board of Parole Hearings, Offender Investigations Unit

Rizo has brought excellent dedication, work ethic, commitment and expertise to a variety of key duties for BPH. His duties include investigation assignments; developing and scheduling security details for hearings; and dignitary protection assignments. He is also a certified Spanish interpreter and a range master. He serves as a positive role model to peers and subordinates.

Wendell Howell, Senior Youth Correctional Counselor, OH Close Youth Correctional Facility (retired)

For more than 30 years, Howell has been a mentor for staff, guiding them on bright and successful careers.  He is known for taking the initiative on many successful projects. For example, he created a new symbol for O.H. Close that includes the motto, ”Opportunity – Hope – Change.” Many times he has organized fund-raisers to get youth involved in assisting disaster victims and others. He has consistently shown commitment to DJJ’s bedrock Integrated Behavior Model. Howell recently retired.

Deborah Hysen, Director, Facilities, Planning, Construction & Management

Since joining CDCR in 2007, Hysen has successfully led several key statewide initiatives and made significant contributions towards the goals of the Department and the Administration. She has helped CDCR meet the demands of a several class-action lawsuits. Her division constructed dental facilities at institutions statewide, contributing to the end of the Perez lawsuit. With regard to the Plata and Coleman lawsuits, her division built facilities for treatment and housing of mentally ill inmates. She has taken a leadership role in meeting accessibility requirements demanded by the Armstrong lawsuit and building codes. And she has been a leader in steering CDCR to meet energy conservation and efficiency goals.

Maureen McLean, Chief Executive Officer (Retired), Pelican Bay State Prison

Under the Madrid lawsuit, McLean became the first CDCR Health Care Manager. She also was the first Family Nurse practitioner to provide primary care physician services to inmates. In her 16-year tenure with Correctional Health Care Services, she was also instrumental in successfully guiding pilot programs. She also built leadership models and generally insured compliance in many mandated health care areas. At Pelican Bay, she contributed greatly to the successful transition from litigation in the Madrid lawsuit.

Employee Recognition Awards

Executive of the Year

Derrick Marion, Chief, Office of Correctional Safety

Marion’s leadership was displayed as the Office of Correctional Safety handled several significant challenges. OCS provided immediate response and apprehended 100 percent of all walkaways from community programs. In doing so, they were significantly supporting CDCR’s mission of rehabilitation while protecting public safety. Marion and his staff logged hundreds of performing inmate threat assessments, working on gang management policies as well as working overtime to track down walkaways from community programs. In gang management policies and strategies, OCS validates gang members, investigates gang activity and handles mitigation efforts to include criminal investigations and debriefs of inmates. Marion makes sure OCS is constantly evolving to keep pace with how gangs and other criminals use technology. OCS also coordinates CDCR’s emergency preparedness and response to mutual aids requests, such as wildfires.

Administrator of the Year

Katherine Minnich, Director, Human Resources, Office of Personnel Services

Under Minnich’s leadership, her department has accomplished many goals, including improving opportunities for employee wellness. Some of these achievements are securing a law enforcement chaplaincy contract for services to employees during and following critical incidents; providing gym equipment for staff at the institutions and HQ; navigating a great deal of red tape to get smart refrigerators installed inside the secure perimeters at pilot institutions in order to provide staff with healthier food options; eliminating the Headquarters Peace Officer Rotation; decreasing CDCR’s backlog of oral and written bilingual examinations by 40 percent over the past year; revitalizing the Recruitment Unit, which has increased hiring for traditionally hard to recruit positions.

Rehabilitation Professional of the Year

Hillary Iserman, Deputy Superintendent, Office of Correctional Education

Iserman successfully took on as a special project: the monumental task of establishing Transitions, a pre-release education program for inmates. Her achievements include recruiting and hiring new teachers; revising and updating the curricular resources; coordinating the training for 53 Transitions teachers; and ensuring that SOMS was updated to reflect the new program. For numerous months, she also covered other vacancies within OCE. At one time, she filled in for three vacant headquarters principal positions.

Division of Adult Parole Operations Professional of the Year

Vincent Thompson, Parole Administrator I, Southern Region, Los Angeles

Thompson successfully oversees a key district, which consists of 65 parole staff members and 2,600 parolees. He leads from the front by finding innovative ways to rehabilitate parolees while protecting the public. For example, his district partnered with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office to hold a week-long job preparation workshop and academy for parolees. A total of 130 parolees completed the academy, which led to a job fair. His concern manifests itself in many ways, such as an annual holiday toy drive for parolees and their families.

Correctional Officer of the Year

Vianey Ford, Correctional Officer, Folsom State Prison

Ford has always been a hard worker, motivated to succeed and accomplish any task, no matter how difficult. This dedication was illustrated last year when she spotted an inmate who had walked away from the Folsom Minimum Support Facility five days earlier. She immediately called 911 and notified the dispatcher that she had located the escaped inmate. Ford kept following the escapee and continued to monitor him as he sat on a bench. A single patrol vehicle from Rancho Cordova Police Department arrived and an officer attempted to take the escapee into custody. The offender resisted, attempting to pull away from the officer. Ford left her personal vehicle and helped the city police officer take the escapee into custody.

Correctional Supervisor of the Year

Stephen Kura, Correctional Plant Supervisor, Centinela State Prison

Kura is the go-to type who doesn’t let anything stop him from keeping the institution performing as CDCR and California taxpayers expect. His resourcefulness is legendary. For example, during an inmate hunger strike he used the kitchen down time to pull back the griddles for deep cleaning; paint the entire kitchen and dining halls; replace two floor drains; and repair and replace tile. He and his crew did all this in one week and with minimal funding. He routinely operates with a 25 percent vacancy rate. Kura is a star in plant operations.

Division of Juvenile Justice Professional of the Year

Maria Harper, Superintendent, Ventura Youth Correctional Facility

Harper has been with DJJ since 1991 and excelled at every level. She brings heart and soul to her job as illustrated by these examples. As superintendent, she played a pivotal role in successfully implementing the Integrated Behavior Treatment Model, a corner stone reform. With an eye to the future, she added computer and computer design classes to prepare youths for a successful return to society. She implemented a student-centered philosophy teaching students how to investigate and respond to a complex question, challenge or problem. And showing her innovative skills, she brought in players from the Los Angeles Rams professional football team to promote character-building.

Healthcare Professionals of the Year

Michael Martel, Warden, California Health Care Facility
Raul Recarey, Chief Executive Officer, California Prison Health Care Services / California Health Care Facility

The successes of CHCF are truly a joint leadership and collaborative venture. The warden and CEO successfully integrated their core values, beliefs and professional practices. They created a model of achieving quality care, patient safety and security and compliance with most every stakeholder custodial and healthcare audit. Their success has produced tangible achievements. Among these are increased compliance scores in multiple audits; a near perfect score from the American Correctional Association certification; absorption and smooth integration of the Department of State Hospitals psychiatric program; and opening a palliative care unit. This example of joint leadership is of great benefit to CDCR.

Beacon award

This new award was established to honor the employee, contractor or volunteer who has fully embraced and expanded CDCR’s mission to rehabilitate offenders and make California safer through small, every day acts that recognize and tap into an individual’s potential to transform. The award will be given to the person who is a beacon of hope for the offender population, an inspiration and source of courage for staff who acknowledge the impact they can have on an offender’s life, and a light even in the darkest corners of our profession.

Tony Pinedo, Youth Correctional Officer, Ventura Youth Correctional Facility

Since joining DJJ in 1991, Pinedo has demonstrated quiet leadership abilities, mentoring and coaching new and veteran Peace Officer staff. Under his guidance, there has been a dramatic reduction in truancy and classroom expulsions and overall behavioral issues with female youth. He has fully embraced the principles and philosophy of the Integrated Behavior Treatment Model. By incorporating these concepts into the daily operations of the school area, he has created therapeutic environment in which young girls feel safe and empowered to be creative and express their thoughts and ideas. He has been instrumental in creating a culture change. Through this change in staff approach, the female youth began to trust and believe that change is possible.

Official event photos by Clarissa Resultan, TV Specialist, OPEC
Event video by Scott Sabicer, Jeff Baur, Dave Novick, Robert Stewart and Cam Applegate

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