SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) honored 92 employees today during its annual Medal of Valor Ceremony. The Medal of Valor is earned by employees distinguishing themselves by conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of correctional service. The Medal of Valor is the highest honor CDCR bestows upon its employees.
Silver Star recipients include Correctional Officer Alex Pizarro of California State Prison, Sacramento (SAC), whose fast actions and quick thinking saved a fellow officer from being trapped in a cell with three inmates armed with a weapon. Correctional Lt. Dean Shankland, Correctional Sergeants Daniel Lightfield and Kenneth Blessing, and Correctional Officers Christopher Drake, Desmond Browne, Joel DeFazio, Josef Johnson, James Lewis, Kenneth Heal, Mark Churray, Matthew Orpesa, Paul Bettencourt and Tyrome Johnson, also from SAC, were honored with a Unit Citation for safely removing a violent inmate from a cell in which he had started a fire.
“The employees we are honoring today are testaments to the genuine concern, compassion and commitment of which we are all capable,” said CDCR Secretary Jeff Beard, “While facing danger or adversity, several of these men and women have demonstrated split-second decision-making, bravery and integrity. Others have shown a level of teamwork so very necessary to rise to the unexpected challenges that life can bring. In all cases, their actions were above and beyond the call of duty. Today’s honorees, their noble acts and innovative ideas are an inspiration to us all.”
Staff members from state prisons, parole offices and various divisions received awards at the First Baptist Church of Elk Grove Community Center. In addition to the Medal of Valor, CDCR awarded Distinguished Service Medals, Unit Citations and Bronze, Silver and Gold Corrections Stars.
The following is a complete list of 2015 award winners:
Medal of Valor
The Medal of Valor is CDCR’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.
Youth Correctional Counselors Sean Copeland and Richard Glassman, Ventura Youth Correctional Facility
Correctional Sergeant Benny Diaz, Pleasant Valley State Prison (Coalinga)
Gold Star Medal
The Corrections Star (Gold) medal is the department’s second-highest award 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.
Correctional Officers Dominic Reed and Benjamin Ledesma, North Kern State Prison (Delano)
Silver Star Medal
The Corrections Star (Silver) medal is the department’s third-highest award 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 himself/herself by performing in stressful situations with exceptional tactics or judgment.
Parole Agent I Ben Somera and Parole Agent II Jason Bradshaw, California Parolee Apprehension Team (San Diego)
Correctional Officer James Paterson, California Rehabilitation Center (Norco)
Correctional Capt. Richard Smith and Correctional Lt. Thelma Wooldridge, Ironwood State Prison (Blythe)
Correctional Officer Antonio Virrueta, Salinas Valley State Prison (Soledad)
Correctional Officer Alex Pizarro, California State Prison-Sacramento
Correctional Officer Ricardo Luna, Centinela State Prison (Imperial)
Bronze Star Medal
The Corrections Star (Bronze) is the department’s award 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.
Correctional Officer Jose Perez, California Men’s Colony (San Luis Obispo)
Correctional Sgt. Cristobal Gonzalez Jr. and Correctional Officers Eric Martinez, Jaime Garcia, Olga Martinez and Sergio Gonzalez, Avenal State Prison
Correctional Officers Carlos Chavez, Veronica Rendon and Maria Beltran, Valley State Prison (Chowchilla)
Correctional Officer and K-9 Handler Ernest Trujillo, Calipatria State Prison
Correctional Sgt. Jack Dougery and Correctional Officer Steve Arana, San Quentin State Prison
Correctional Officer John Atkins, California Correctional Center (Susanville)
Correctional Officers John Farnetti and Chad Painter, Deuel Vocational Institution (Tracy)
Correctional Sgt. Owen Spencer, Pelican Bay State Prison (Crescent City)
Correctional Officer Walter Moorer, California Medical Facility (Vacaville)
Deric Johnson, Senior Estimator of Building Construction and Project Manager, Facility Planning, Construction and Management
Registered Nurses Zachary Eaton and James Wenker, California Correctional Center (Susanville)
Correctional Officer Todd Gillis, California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison-Corcoran
Correctional Sgt. Humberto Vera, Correctional Officer Daniel Bjorn and Registered Nurses Martha Jimenez and Dianna Seta, Correctional Training Facility (Soledad)
Chief Deputy Warden Joel Martinez and Case Records Technician Leon Mize, Sierra Conservation Center (Jamestown)
Correctional Officer Thomas Mireles, California Training Facility (Soledad)
Correctional Sgt. Lorenzo Abella, Correctional Officers Sergio Martinez and Shaneel Prasad, and Registered Nurse Michelle Morin, California State Prison-Solano (Vacaville)
Correctional Officers Jorge Limon and Aristeo Punzal, Centinela State Prison
Youth Correctional Officers Gustavo Camberos and Sue Perales, N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility (Stockton)
Parole Agent I Jose Montiel, Redwood City Parole Unit
The Unit Citation is for great courage displayed by a departmental unit in the face of immediate life-threatening circumstances.
Correctional Lt. Dean Shankland, Correctional Sgt. Daniel Lightfield, Correctional Sgt. Kenneth Blessing and Correctional Officers Christopher Drake, Desmond Browne, Joel DeFazio, Josef Johnson, James Lewis, Kenneth Heal, Mark Churray, Matthew Orpesa, Paul Bettencourt and Tyrome Johnson, all from California State Prison-Sacramento.
Distinguished Service Medal
The Distinguished Service Medal is 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.
Loran E. Sheley, Research Program Specialist III, and Denise M. Allen, Research Manager, Office of Research
Correctional Sgts. Guyler Tulp and Daisy Tamayo, Avenal State Prison
Robbi Geyser, Recreation Therapist, Mule Creek State Prison (Ione)
Youth Correctional Counselor Deborah Brady, Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp
Juan Guajarado, Treatment Team Supervisor, and Michael Trotter, Casework Specialist, O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility (Stockton)
MartyGiannini, Treatment Team Supervisor, N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility (Stockton)
Thomas Foster, Parole Agent, Antelope Valley GPS Unit
Tariq Aquil, Community Resource Manager, Correctional Training Facility (Soledad)
Administrator of the Year: Loran E. Sheley, Research Program Specialist III, and Denise M. Allen, Research Manager III, Office of Research.
Health Care Services Professional of the Year: Amy Eargle, Ph.D.
Division of Juvenile Justice Professional of the Year: Youth Correctional Counselor Deborah Brady, Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp
Division of Rehabilitative Programs Professional of the Year: Matika Rawls, Associate Governmental Program Analyst, Office of Correctional Education
Division of Parole Operations Professional of the Year: Denise LeBard, Parole Administrator I
Correctional Officer of the Year: Correctional Officer Joanne Vice, California Correctional Center (Susanville)
Correctional Supervisor of the Year: Correctional Lt. Matt DeForest, High Desert State Prison (Susanville)
Executive of the Year: Vincent S. Cullen, Assistant Deputy Director, Division of Adult Institutions, Operations.