SACRAMENTO ― The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (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 benefitting 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
O’Brian Bailey, Correctional Administrator, Mule Creek State Prison
Karen Reed, Parole Agent III, Division of Adult Parole Operations, Southern Region
Contact: CDCR Press Office, (916) 445-4950, email@example.com