Top Pandemic-Hardened Prison Employees Honored For Achievements

Author: John Bull, Communications Officer

Prisons leadership this week honored several employees – including North Carolina’s Warden of the Year - for their outstanding work, tireless dedication and extraordinary achievements in the past year.

“These men and women represent the best of our best from across the state,” said Todd Ishee, Commissioner of Prisons. “They are hard-working, innovative and deeply committed to their jobs, their colleagues and to the care of the men and women in our custody. They deserve recognition and accolades, particularly during this year of pandemic.”

Announced at the first in-person (but socially distant and masked) gathering of the state’s wardens in a year, the staff award winners represent 11 of the state’s 55 prisons. The honors also coincided with national Correctional Officers and Correctional Employees Week.

Warden of the Year: Drew Stanley, for Nash Correctional Institution in Nashville.

The pandemic safeguards Warden Stanley put in place were visionary, precautionary and effective.

Before any offenders in the prison system tested positive for the virus, Stanley streamlined the way offenders were housed and grouped them to protect their health and to better ensure continuity of operations in the event of an outbreak.

He found a way to live-stream classes for the Field Ministry Program at the prison, in which 70 offenders work toward a four-year Bachelor of Arts degree in pastoral ministry with training in counseling.

He instituted strict cleaning schedules in the offender housing units and created staff sign-in/sign-out logs for the housing units at the male medium custody prison.

As a result, Nash Correctional didn’t experience a COVID-19 outbreak at the prison for 10 months while most other prisons combatted viral outbreaks in their offender populations throughout 2020, some repeatedly. The first outbreak at Nash Correctional wasn’t until Jan. 9, 2021.

“Warden Stanley is highly regarded by his peers and serves as a wealth of knowledge for newly promoted wardens,” said Ishee. “He has proven to be a phenomenal warden and is a true asset to Prisons.”

Manager Award: Lucketchia Boston, associate warden for operations at Tyrrell Prison Work Farm in Columbia.

Associate Warden Boston confidently and expertly bridged a leadership gap amid the pandemic.

During the warden vacancy at the prison, Warden Tom Brickhouse of Hyde Correctional Institution, about 40 miles away, served as the warden of both facilities. “She told me from day one, ‘I got this. I will call you only if I absolutely need to,’” Brickhouse said. “She managed Tyrrell through two COVID outbreaks with a minimal work force.”

Boston began as a correctional officer at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in 2001 and worked up through the ranks until her promotion to associate warden in 2019.

Programs Award: Cindy Haynes, program director for Marion Correctional Institution in Marion. 

Though her assigned job is program director, Cindy Hanes handled much more than the rehabilitative services and educational opportunities for offenders.

“She was my go-to,” said Warden Mike Slagle of Mountain View Correctional Institution, where Haynes worked until a recent promotion. “She got involved in every aspect of the prison, and she was great at it.”

Haynes, who started with Prisons in 1993 as a correctional officer, last month was recognized by the state Office of Victim Services for her additional work as a victim information coordinator.

Custody Award: Sgt. Paul Horton, correctional officer at Eastern Correctional Institution in Maury.

“Sgt. Horton is always on point,” said Larry Dail, director of Prisons’ Eastern Region. “If there’s a situation, he knows how to bring calm to it, and he knows how to take control.”

Horton, a military retiree, began with the state prison system in 1999.

Eastern Correctional Warden Mike Hardee said Sgt. Horton exemplifies what a correctional officer should aspire to be every day.

“His work ethic and positive attitude show that he strives to be an asset to Eastern Correctional Institution,” Hardee said. “He always has a positive attitude and is a dependable person. He always lends a helping hand.” 

First Line Supervisor Award: Sgt. Mindil Kennedy-Lindsey, correctional officer at Sanford Correctional Center in Sanford.

When the prison was chosen to be the first facility to seek ACA accreditation last year, Sgt. Kennedy-Lindsey was tapped as the liaison.

She worked seven days a week including working “ridiculous hours into the night, and on holidays,” said Sandford Warden Melanie Shelton.

Kennedy-Lindsey pulled together all the policies, procedures and supporting documentation for the ACA auditors and worked so hard to ensure the prison met all of the 459 standards required for accreditation. It was detailed, time-consuming work over months.

She did all this while performing her assigned job as day-shift sergeant. 

Her hard work more than paid off. The ACA auditors scored the prison 100% on mandatory ACA standards and 98.7% on non-mandatory standards. ACA accreditation is the gold standard of prison operations.

“This was just remarkable,” said Shelton. “Sgt. Kennedy-Lindsey is a role model. She shares her knowledge. She is a leader. I’d hate to lose her, but she has my highest recommendation.”

Health Services Award: Rebecca Greene, nursing supervisor for Southern Correctional Institution in Troy.

Before being reassigned to Southern Correctional earlier this year, Nurse Greene was the nursing supervisor at Randolph Correctional Institution. She led the effort to transfer offenders with high medical needs from both Randolph Correctional and the minimum custody unit at Southern Correctional to the main prison complex at Southern CI as a pandemic contingency plan.

It was hard work, and detail-oriented, but with her compassion and genuine care for staff and offenders, she made the transition process seem seamless and effortless as hundreds of offenders were transferred under stringent pandemic-safety protocols.

“That was quite an accomplishment,” said Gary Junker, Prisons’ director of Health and Wellness. “Nurse Greene orchestrated all that.”

Even during the challenges of a year of a pandemic, she exceeded the expectations of her job duties. She leads by example and inspires those she supervises to be proactive in the performance of their duties.

Support Services Award: Catherine Whaley, administrative officer, Pender Correctional Institution in Burgaw.

Whaley’s knowledge of the facility and agency contributed to her being an excellent example of a top-notch administrative officer.

During the continuing challenges and struggles associated with COVID-19, she completely streamlined the staff testing procedures at the prison. Every other week, she showed up for her job four hours early to complete staff testing for incoming and outgoing shifts, a critical health and safety initiative.

She also conducted the contact tracing for staff when someone tests positive for COVID-19 in the prison and built a strong rapport with the local health department. With the added responsibilities from the pandemic, she continued to maintain all of her job duties with a positive and professional attitude, showing her dedication and commitment to her job and her prison. 

“When there is an issue, you call Cat. She will put you on the path and it will be right,” said Pete Buchholtz, South Central Regional Director of Prisons. “Knowing her personally, it really warms my heart to see her receive this award.”

Innovations and Teams Award: James Menke, lead nurse supervisor of Craven Correctional Institution in Vanceboro.

On taking the role of lead nurse supervisor at the prison, Nurse Menke quickly proved he was willing to go the extra mile.

He was essential in setting up a standard method for recovering misplaced offender medications by creating a step-by-step process of tracking offenders’ medications at the busy prison, where thousands of new offenders are processed each year on their arrival to the prison system.

By using his medication tracking and recovery system, he was able to locate where, when, why, and how medications were misplaced and where to find them.

“He has done a tremendous service,” said Valerie Langley, Prisons Director of Nursing. “When they were misplaced, he worked very hard and very diligently to recover them.”

Menke’s consistently innovative approach and extra effort contributed to meeting the requirement to quickly investigate misplaced offender medications and recover them whenever possible, said Gary Junker, Prisons’ Director of Health and Wellness.

“His worked helped facilities across the state so they didn’t have to work to track down misplaced medications from offenders out of Craven Correctional,’’ Junker said. “It was a critical function.”

Education Award: Mahogani Thompkins, educational-vocational coordinator for Sampson Correctional Center.

As a case manager/educational-vocational coordinator at the prison, Thompkins led the effort to make offenders at the prison eligible to attend educational classes during the pandemic.

“She is a thinker, an outside-the-box person,” said Sarah Cobb, Prisons’ Director of Rehabilitative Services.

The classes with Sampson Community College are socially distanced, with other pandemic health protocols, but taking classes is an important effort to prepare soon-to-be-released offenders for their returns to their communities.

Thompkins worked to meet the requirements of the community college to allow her to conduct offender testing to place them in academic, vocational and high school equivalency classes at the prison.

Education is her passion because offender education leads to jobs, and jobs lead to success and reduces the chances an offender commits another crime.

“She goes above and beyond,” said Sampson Warden Bob VanGorder. “She does what needs to be done. She’s a team player and an asset to the organization. Her efforts have resulted in student success and personal growth among her assigned offenders.”

See photos of the award winners and ceremony on the Prisons Employee Awards Winners Flickr album. 


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