Prisons Honors Officer Gee as Top Newcomer


RALEIGH — Correctional Officer Dawnelle Gee of Caledonia Correctional Institution was named the state prison system’s top new employee.

Gee accepted the 2021 Newcomer Award on May 6 alongside 10 other Prisons honorees in various categories. The ceremony coincided with national Correctional Officers and Correctional Employees Week.

“She represents the best of our best from across the state,” said Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee. “Our award winners are hard-working, innovative and deeply committed to their jobs, their colleagues and to the care of the men and women in our custody.”

Gee was recognized for pulling the first thread that unraveled a major contraband operation inside the Halifax County prison.

On Nov. 24, 2020, after less than a year on the job, Gee was assigned to monitor entrances and exits at the gatehouse. She watched as offenders who worked in prison maintenance returned to their housing units. Searching a toolbox, she picked up a Ziploc bag of latex gloves.

“It felt like something was in it,” she recalled. “He took it back from me and tried to hide it behind a hand truck.”

She retrieved the bag of gloves and found a small package inside. It contained 62 grams of cocaine — the equivalent of about 20 restaurant sugar packs.

A follow-up search of the maintenance area turned up 19 cellphones with chargers, 142 grams of marijuana, the synthetic cannabinoid K2 and bags of tobacco.

“Because of Officer Gee’s keen eye, attention to detail and professionalism, this large amount of contraband entering Caledonia facility was halted,” said Warden Caroline Riddick-Taylor.

Gee may be a newcomer to N.C. Prisons, but it’s familiar work. Her father is retired Caledonia prison Sgt. Herbert Cheatham. Gee worked at a prison in Virginia, earning the rank of sergeant, before returning to the area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Elizabeth City State University.

“She’s a go-getter,” Warden Riddick-Taylor added, “but I really want to keep her at Caledonia.”

The state prison system houses more than 28,000 offenders in 55 facilities with a staff of around 13,500.

Click for information on other Prisons 2021 award winners and for images of award winners.

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