Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182

For immediate release:

Noon on Thursday, June 29, 2000

Correctional Services dedicates memorial to 32 who died in the line of duty

As bagpipers played, Taps echoed and a rifle squad fired a 21-gun salute, the Department of Correctional Services today dedicated a permanent memorial in Albany to 32 civilian and uniformed employees who have died in the line of duty as the result of inmate actions since 1861.

The deceased employees honored during today's 1 p.m. ceremony at the memorial include 25 uniformed personnel and seven civilians, plus a total of three women. The total comes from Attica (12), Auburn (six), Clinton (five), Sing Sing (three) and one each from Elmira, Fishkill, Eastern, Green Haven and Great Meadow correctional facilities, plus one employee who worked in New York City in the parole division when it was part of Correctional Services until 1977.

They include the 11 who died in the 1971 riot at the Attica Correctional Facility. Three others held the title of Principal Keeper (now Deputy Superintendent for Security) at Auburn Correctional Facility when they were killed by inmates in 1927, 1929 and 1930. Another was a Sing Sing Officer killed in 1916 by an escaping death row inmate, who was recaptured and executed eight days later. Still another was a hospital attendant killed by a criminally insane inmate at Matteawan State Hospital (now Fishkill Correctional Facility) only four days before she was to leave to attend nursing school. Another was Green Haven Correction Officer Donna Payant, murdered by an inmate in 1981. C.O. Payant remains the only female Officer in New York to die in the line of duty.

Among the more than 1,500 guests attending the ceremony were nearly 100 family members of some of the 32 employees who lost their lives as the result of inmate actions. They included 64 from Attica and 16 from Auburn. Also present to honor their colleagues were eight of the surviving hostages from the 1971 riot at Attica.

"It is my honor to represent Governor George Pataki today," said Katherine N. Lapp, the Governor's Director of Criminal Justice. "He is proud of the difficult and dangerous work performed every day by Correctional employees. That is why he has been at your side since he took office. He authorized the largest expansion in history of maximum-security beds, most of them disciplinary housing cells to control inmates who attack staff and disrupt operations. He has increased Correction Officer staffing alone by 17 percent since 1995, while the inmate population rose by 5 percent. He authorized the purchase of cell extraction vests for Officers in disciplinary housing units as well as tactical vests for CERT teams. He has signed a law that adds up to five years to the sentences of 'inmate throwers.' "

Senate Codes Committee Chairman Dale M. Volker, whose district includes Attica, said, "We honor Correctional employees today who paid the ultimate price for their devotion to duty, state and country. It is a tragedy that, until now, New York never acknowledged with a statewide memorial the incredible sacrifice of both Correction Officers and civilian employees. That was particularly true at Attica after 1971. We are trying to at least deal with some of that oversight today."

Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry, chairman of the Corrections Committee, said, "I am honored to be here today to pay homage to the Correctional employees who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their duties to the people of our state. I am proud to stand here today with their families and coworkers in the dedication of this memorial to them. It stands as a reminder to all of us of the difficult work that we expect every day from the Department and its employees."

In his remarks, Commissioner Goord said, "No one should have to go to work each day and wonder if they will come home each night. No family should have to worry if their loved one is safe on the job. But that is what each and every one of our employees and their families face each day. That is not what going to work is supposed to be about. It should not take courage just to go to work."

Commissioner Goord said it was that courage and ultimate sacrifice paid by employees that were being honored today: "It is like the courage shown every day by the employees present here."

Commissioner Goord noted that, with increased sentences for violent offenders and the elimination of discretionary parole, the percentage of violent offenders is on the rise. He noted that employees are given the tools to deal with that population: "The training provided at the Academy. The experience and judgment of our employees in the field. The dedication of our work force. The professionalism of our employees. These tools will guide us in the new millennium.

"We also have the tools provided by Governor Pataki," Commissioner Goord said. "He has been a strong supporter of this system since the day he took office. He has given us the cells we need to house violent offenders. He has increased staffing. He has enriched programs that provide inmates with positive direction for their energies."

The ceremony, which will become an annual event, took place in the recently-completed permanent memorial park at the Department's 50-acre Training Academy campus at 1134 New Scotland Road in Albany. The centerpiece of the memorial park in front of the Academy is the Empire blue granite memorial that stands 12 feet high, six feet wide, 18 inches deep and weighs 19,711 pounds. It is inscribed:

"In honor of the brave men and women of the Department of Correctional Services who gave their lives in the performance of their duties on behalf of all the people of the State of New York."

The memorial park includes landscaping and assorted flowers, trees and shrubberies; an outer two-foot-high circular concrete retaining wall; park benches; lighting and 40 ballards with approximately 130 feet of decorative chains. A "memorial mall" of stone, highlighted by three flag poles (displaying the national, state and MIA flags), connects the monument site to the entrance of the Academy. Planning for the site began in 1998 while actual construction got underway in October of 1999.

The Academy was originally constructed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany in 1952 as the Mater Christi Seminary. The Department leased the facility and grounds in 1973 and purchased the complex in 1987. Approximately 1,000 Correction Officer recruits train at the facility each year, with an equal number of higher-level staff receiving specialized training there annually. The Academy has a staff of approximately 45.