Jan. 27, 2022
W.Va. Corrections staff honored for service amid COVID-19 response
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy announced his department’s latest round of Freedom Awards on Wednesday to Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation employees.
The secretary’s Freedom Award recognizes employees for performances that exceed the normal expectations involved in their duties and responsibilities. Several of these latest awards, which had been delayed by pandemic-related restrictions, cite actions specific to DCR's ongoing response to COVID-19. Held at the West Virginia Corrections Academy in Glenville, the awards ceremony featured opening remarks from Bobby Pruett, the former longtime and championship-winning Marshall University head football coach. Pruett's grandson was among the award recipients.
Corrections Commissioner Betsy Jividen and Deputy Commissioner Paul Simmons presented the awards during the ceremony. They praised DCR's leadership, particularly facility superintendents, for their dedication, perseverance and service to the citizens of West Virginia. They also presented special awards to two Southern Regional Jail correctional officers, Cpl. Dalley Maynard and Cpl. David Cole, for going above and beyond the call of duty. The two were honored for their handling of an inmate transfer incident earlier this month. Maynard and Cole responded to this challenge with professionalism and represented DCR with dignity, honor, respect, and distinction, their citations said.
Recipients of the Secretary's Freedom Award for Distinguished Service:
Lt. Bobby Berry, Correctional Officer V, Threat Assessment and Readiness Officer, for numerous, significant contributions to DCR's COVID-19 response. Berry proved instrumental in securing and providing personal protective equipment and vaccines for DCR facilities. He oversaw the successful transfer of inmates from jails to prisons to ease crowding while adhering to strict COVID-19 guidelines. He also supervised the hospitalization of a high-risk inmate, ensuing the offender's month-long stay was without incident.
“Lt. Berry gets the job done, no matter how big the task is," said DCR Director of Security Steve Caudill.
Sgt. Zachary Gill, Correctional Officer IV, Sam Perdue Juvenile Center, for serving as a leader and role model at his Mercer County facility. “Sgt. Gill understands the vision of our agency and checks all boxes to reach the overall mission," said Superintendent Gary Patton, who also credited Gill's community service as a volunteer firefighter.
Sgt. Bryer Lynch, Correctional Officer IV, Charleston Correctional Center, for mentoring fellow officers while also serving the local community. He focuses on helping those he supervises prepare for scenarios outside of their comfort zones, earning praise from staff and inmates alike. He also began a “Shop with a CO" program that provides Christmas presents for local children in need.
“This not only helps the community, but also helps DCR's public image and shows the general public the good that we as public servants can provide," said Lt. Jennifer Henderson, who nominated Lynch for the recognition.
Jon Michael Montgomery, Investigator I, North Central Regional Jail, for conducting 77 investigations over the course of 2020 including 26 drug-related cases, 17 alleging staff misconduct and 17 involving enforcement of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. Montgomery referred 41 of these cases to the West Virginia State Police for potential prosecution. Montgomery's hard work is credited for holding inmates as well as staff accountable.
“Jon has 20-plus years of law enforcement experience and freely shares his knowledge with other investigators and staff," said Matthew “Shawn" Carson, his supervising investigator. “Jon is always willing to respond to NCRJ when he is needed."
Sgt. Jaclyn Nead, Correctional Officer IV, Eastern Regional Jail, for stepping up to help support the newly consolidated administration of ERJ and neighboring Martinsburg Correctional Center. Nead's performance earned her a promotion within four months of starting as a correctional officer. She has also helped to supervise staff at the two facilities amid turnover challenges. Nead has excelled after a harrowing start: while a in-facility trainee, Nead was attacked by an inmate who threatened her with a weapon to her throat.
“She has been instrumental in maintaining the daily operations" of her unit, said Associate Superintendent of Security Strider Ouimet. “The facility would be at a significant loss without her efforts."
Adam Taylor Pruett, Corrections Counselor II, Vicki Douglas Juvenile Center, for stepping up amid COVID-19 and staffing challenges at this facility. Pruett serves as the juvenile center's PREA compliance manager in addition to his other duties. The training and leadership he has provided is credited for the successful compliance audit of his facility. When short of staff, Pruett also assists with cleaning, laundry and meal preparation duties as well as working security posts.
John Tackett, Parole Officer II, for wearing multiple hats while serving in the Parole Services district that includes Logan County. In addition to handling his supervisory caseload, Tackett is a special deputy U.S. Marshal assigned to the Violent Offenders Fugitive Task Force in the state's southern federal court district. Tackett has helped carry out multiple warrant sweeps including Operation Delta 146, organized in honor of slain Charleston Police Officer Cassie Johnson, and Operation Autumn Hope in 2021 that led to the recovery of 45 missing children in both southern West Virginia and Ohio.
Sandra Barton, Administrative Services Assistant I, West Virginia Corrections Academy, for providing support to the recently consolidated Corrections Academy and the ongoing improvements to the training it provides. Barton is credited with overseeing the application process for specialized training, and for keeping remote and off-site training running smoothly amid the pandemic response.
William Todd Hayes, Corrections Unit Manager, for his response to a March 2021 fire at the Salem Correctional Center. Hearing a fire alarm, Hayes immediately identified its location, in SCC's laundry facilities. Finding heavy smoke there, he directed the building's evacuation and then attempted to fight the fire with a handheld extinguisher. Hayes assisted responding firefighters, pulling hoses and setting up exhaust fans. Hayes actions are credited with the fire resulting in no injuries and minor damages.
Spencer Hill, Corrections Chief Hearing Officer, for filling a key position resolving inmate grievances amid the COVID-19 pandemic response. A 26-year veteran of state government, Hill continued his other duties while helping to develop a new tracking system for inmate grievances and disciplinary appeals.
“Spencer Hill has worn many hats during his career with WVDCR, and proves to be a problem-solver," said Staffing Services Director Lori Lynch.
Jonathan Huffman, Assistant Director of Inmate Records, for improving the process for scheduling and holding Parole Board hearings following the consolidation of the board's administrative staff within DCR. Huffman organized and assigned the transferred staff positions while taking on direct oversight of parole hearings at DCR's largest facility, the Huttonsville Correctional Center. Huffman also harnessed his command of DCR's Offender Information System database to resolve pre-existing issues with parole hearing notifications, caseload management and the forms board members rely upon to assess and decide on parole requests.
“He has solved many of the problems that parole staff and members thought were insurmountable," said Director of Inmate Records Diann Skiles.
Anthony Leonard, Corrections Programs Manager and Assistant Director of Security, for his contributions to the COVID-19 response. Leonard logged thousands of miles to deliver PPE and vaccines to facilities, working long hours and days off in the process.
“Mr. Leonard is a true corrections professional and a great teammate," Caudill said.
Jarrodd Moore, Building Supervisor I, for helping oversee multiple projects that have improved security and safety at numerous facilities amid COVID-related restrictions. These efforts have included upgrading locking mechanisms, installing new fire alarm systems and improving plumbing and electrical systems at both jails and prisons.
Jessica Scott, Correctional Trainer, Bureau of Training and Staff Development, for improving training for DCR supervisors. Scott also helped ensure training courses continued amid COVID-19 precautions and improved the “training for trainers" program that provides continuing education throughout DCR.
Valerie Shuler, Corrections Industries Supervisor I, Correctional Industries, for a valuable contribution to the support DCR has provided to West Virginia's COVID-19 response. When inmates at Lakin Correctional Center began producing protective cloth face coverings and nonsurgical gowns for the West Virginia National Guard, Shuler pursued research and training to ensure these efforts provided quality, effective PPE. Her devotion to this mission helped to revise and improve the gowns over time. She also proved instrumental when the National Guard requested protective shoe and hair covers, helping to design both.
Charles Taylor, Corrections Program Manager, Fayette-Nicholas Youth Reporting Center, for his leadership at that facility while also helping to lead the Raleigh County YRC when its director position became vacant. Regional Director Aneetra Gilbert credits Taylor for being proactive and detail-oriented.
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