Awards and Appreciation

CDCR honors employees at 35th annual Medal of Valor Ceremony

Medal of Valor logo.

Editor’s note: A recording of the video is available on the Medal of Valor website. If you want to download a copy, use the Vimeo link.

CDCR honored 98 employees today at its 2020 Medal of Valor Ceremony for their bravery in responding to life-threatening situations in the line of duty and in the community as well as exemplary work benefiting the department and the public.

“This year’s honorees show that the bravery and professionalism of our staff extends beyond institution walls and into the community. Our employees keep order, ensure safety, encourage rehabilitation and serve the people of California,” CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said.

Calipatria State Prison Correctional Officer Alfred Gascon was awarded the Medal of Valor, CDCR’s highest award, earned by distinguishing himself by conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of correctional service.

While driving home from work, Officer Gascon encountered two severely damaged vehicles. The wreck left one person trapped in their vehicle, an unconscious person in the second vehicle, and a missing passenger. Officer Gascon found the missing passenger in a nearby canal, jumped in the water, and pulled them to safety. The passenger had severe head injuries and no pulse. Officer Gascon began life-saving measures and the passenger’s heart started beating again. Meanwhile, black smoke began pouring out of the first vehicle. Officer Gascon rescued the driver as well as the people in the second vehicle. All the people Officer Gascon rescued lived.

Members of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) at CDCR and California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) were each honored as Executive of the Year. GARE seeks to clearly define racial equity, analyze policies from this perspective and craft a plan for long-term racial equity in the workforce.

“CDCR and CCHCS proactively joined many local governments, regional agencies, and state departments by creating a GARE team that finalized a five-year strategic action plan to guide practices and core strategies for making our government more representative of the people of California,” Secretary Diaz said. “Their work will help produce more diversity and equity in our workforce.”

In 2019, CDCR and CCHCS began managing substance use disorder as a chronic medical illness with evidence-based treatments that reduce morbidity, mortality and recidivism. The members of the multi-disciplinary team from CDCR, CCHCS and the California Prison Industry Authority who created and implemented the Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment program were given Distinguished Service awards.

The Beacon Award was given to O’Brian Bailey, a Correctional Administrator at Avenal State Prison who volunteers to coordinate all rehabilitative programming for the Youth Offender Program there, and Parole Agent III Karen Reed, who single-handedly brought the concept of beach clean-ups to the South where parole agents and parolees work side-by-side every month to clean up public areas. She also exposes parolees to pro-social activities and organizes toy and food drives for needy families. The Beacon Award was established to honor an employee, contractor, or volunteer who has fully embraced and expanded the Department’s rehabilitative mission to make California safer through small, everyday acts that recognize and tap into an individual’s potential to transform.

Because of COVID-19, this year’s Medal of Valor ceremony was pre-recorded. Employees from nearly all disciplines and professions statewide received awards at the virtual ceremony that featured videos, narration and photographs. In addition to the Medal of Valor and Executive of the Year awards, CDCR awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold Corrections Stars; Distinguished Service Medals; and medals for Correctional Officer and Supervisor of the Year. CDCR also honored exemplary executives and administrators as well as health care, rehabilitation, parole, and juvenile justice professionals.

Following is the complete list of employees honored at the Sept. 13 Medal of Valor ceremony.

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.

Alfred Gascon, Correctional Officer, Calipatria State Prison

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.

Nichele Aguilar, Correctional Officer, California State Prison-Solano

Robert Dickson, Correctional Officer, California Rehabilitation Center

Harley Robbins, Correctional Sergeant, Centinela State Prison

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.

David Vega, Correctional Sergeant, Office of Peace Officer Standards

Amanda Duncan, Correctional Officer, Sierra Conservation Center

Stephen Leach, Correctional Officer, California Health Care Facility

James Lehman, Psychologist, California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison-Corcoran

Ricardo Ancheta, Correctional Officer, California Men’s Colony

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.

Alejandro Buenrostro, Correctional Officer, and Chalet Valencia, Licensed Vocational Nurse; Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility

Frank Hurtado, Parole Agent III; Division of Adult Parole Operations, Escondido 2 Parole Unit

Renato Benitez-Sanchez, Correctional Officer, California Institution for Men

Hector A. Lopez, Associate Warden, California Rehabilitation Center

Albert G. Morales, Correctional Officer; David Willer, Registered Nurse; Daniel Hauck, Associate Governmental Program Analyst; and Nicholas Hernandez II, Correctional Counselor; California Correctional Institution

Rosalie Cota, Parole Service Associate, Calipatria State Prison

Kevin Mohrweis, Correctional Officer; Wasco State Prison and Christopher Ponce, Correctional Officer; North Kern State Prison

Richard Russell, Correctional Counselor II, Supervisor; Andrew Pilati, Correctional Lieutenant; and Michael Nord, Correctional Officer; Sierra Conservation Center

Daniel Kirk, Correctional Counselor II, Supervisor; Sierra Conservation Center

Paul Ford, Parole Agent I; Division of Adult Parole Operations, Stockton 2 Parole Unit

Antoinette Rossi, Licensed Vocational Nurse; Jashaun Banks, Correctional Officer; Karen Gladden, Registered Nurse; Laurie Thomas, Licensed Vocational Nurse; Stuart Lyons, Fire Captain; Avenal State Prison

Juan Gutierrez, Correctional Sergeant and Alex Alva, Correctional Officer; Central California Women’s Facility

Fred Moss, Correctional Officer, Central California Women’s Facility

Tim Orpurt, Correctional Sergeant; Sierra Conservation Center, Vallecito Conservation Camp

Mark Rosales, Correctional Lieutenant, California State Prison-Los Angeles County

Samantha Lopez, Medical Assistant and Maunish Sharma, Registered Nurse; Mule Creek State Prison

Timothy Sanders, Correctional Lieutenant, California State Prison-Corcoran

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.

Michael A. Tuntakit, Correctional Captain, and Jamie Shaw, Correctional Lieutenant (retired); Avenal State Prison

Researched and wrote a modern, more effective and job-specific training curriculum for CDCR’s supervisor training.

The following were awarded for creating and implementing the Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment (ISUDT) program

Lisa Heintz, Associate Director and ISUDT Project Executive

Renee Kanan, Deputy Director, Chief Quality Officer; Medical Services Division

Duane Reeder, Deputy Director; CCHCS Fiscal Services

Christopher Helton, Staff Services Manager III; CCHCS Fiscal Services

Amber Barry, Associate Budget Analyst; CCHCS Fiscal Services

Barbara Barney-Knox, Statewide Chief Nurse Executive; Nursing Services

Eureka Daye, Deputy Director; Mental Health Services

Elizabeth Gransee, Deputy Director; Health Care Communications

Kristina Khokhobashvili, Chief; Office of External Affairs

Ron Davis, Associate Director; Division of Adult Institutions, Reception Centers

Chantel Quint, Associate Warden; Division of Adult Institutions, Office of Policy Standardization

Marvin Speed, Chief Deputy Administrator; Division of Adult Parole Operations

Kevin Hoffman, Deputy Director; Division of Rehabilitative Programs, Office of Program Operations

Hillary Iserman, Deputy Superintendent; Division of Rehabilitative Programs, Office of Correctional Education

Michelle Weaver, Associate Director; Facilities, Planning, Construction and Management

Michael Potter, Staff Services Manager III; Facilities, Planning, Construction and Management

Andrea Carter, Assistant Deputy Director; CCHCS Human Resources

Jasinda Muhammad, Deputy Director; CCHCS Human Resources

Margie McCune, Assistant Chief; Office of Labor Relations

Migdalia Siaca, Deputy Director; Office of Labor Relations

Annette Lambert, Deputy Director; Quality Management

John Dunlap, Deputy Medical Executive; Quality Management

Spencer Puente, Research Data Manager, ISUDT Dashboard; Quality Management

Stacy Lopez, Associate Director; Peace Officer Selection and Employee Development

Fran Archuleta, Deputy Director; Healthcare Business Services

Jennifer Barretto, Director; Healthcare Administration and Policy

Janene DelMundo, Project Manager; CCHCS

Randy Fisher, Chief Administrative Officer; California Prison Industry Authority

Ryan Souza, formerly with the Division of Rehabilitative Programs

Marcus Dahlstrom, Physician and Surgeon; Quality Management

Ronald Phillips, Staff Services Manager I; California Prison Industry Authority

Employee Recognition Awards

Executives of the Year

Members of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity

Nolice Edwards, previously Chief of the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services, and now Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the Government Operations Agency

Brenda Crowding, Deputy Director, CDCR Office of Internal Affairs

Fergus Leckie, Captain, California State Prison, Sacramento

Preetika Nand-Lal, Attorney III, CCHCS Office of Internal Affairs

Emma Regidor, Staff Counsel III, CDCR Office of Legal Affairs

Michelle Allen, Parole Agent II; Division of Adult Parole Operations, Northern Region

Olivia Briones, Regional Personnel Administrator for CCHCS’ Fresno Regional Office

Ricardo DeLaCruz, Associate Director, CDCR Human Resources

Kevin Grassel, Information Technology Specialist II, Office of Research

Michelle Laguna, formerly a Student Assistant at the Office of Internal Affairs, now an Office Technician at Mule Creek State Prison

Jaron Nash, Chief Executive Officer, Avenal State Prison

Rosanna Rodriguez, Staff Services Manager II; Office of Peace Officer Selection, Northern Region

Elizabeth Sherrell-Davis, Staff Services Manger I, Office of Training and Professional Development

Sarina J. Calderon, Associate Director, CDCR Office of Internal Affairs

Stefanie Kane, Correctional Counselor III, California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran

Khanh Nguyen, Staff Services Manager II, CDCR Office of Internal Affairs

Administrator of the Year

Kristoffer Applegate, Associate Director, Correctional Policy

Division of Correctional Policy Research and Internal Oversight

Correctional Officer of the Year

Heidi Richards, Security Patrol Officer, Pleasant Valley State Prison

Correctional Supervisor of the Year

Dee Lovette, Community Resources Manager, Avenal State Prison

Rehabilitation Professionals of the Year

Jennifer Wynn, Superintendent of Correctional Education; Division of Rehabilitative Programs, Correctional Education

Stephan Lambert, Correctional Officer, Sierra Conservation Center

Division of Adult Parole Operations Professional of the Year

Roosevelt Whisenant, Parole Agent III, Division of Adult Parole Operations

Division of Juvenile Justice Professional of the Year

Maria Hudson, Deputy Director of Administrative Services, Division of Juvenile Justice

Healthcare Professional of the Year

Sierra Robert, Public Health Registered Nurse, Mule Creek State Prison

Beacon Award

O’Brian Bailey, Correctional Administrator, Mule Creek State Prison

Karen Reed, Parole Agent III, Division of Adult Parole Operations, Southern Region

Additional ways to view the ceremony

The ceremony is viewable on all computers, including CDCR computers, on YouTube.

If you want to view the ceremony inside the CDCR network and download a copy of the ceremony, you can do this on Vidizmo. If you are working remotely, the link may not work or the video may not play correctly.

Here is another option if you want to download a copy of the ceremony. You can do this on a computer outside the CDCR network on Vimeo.

There also is a website with names, photos and citations for honorees: