Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

Remarks delivered by Commissioner Glenn S. Goord at the June 7, 2001, Memorial Service & Medals Ceremony

I would like to thank Senator Dale Volker and Assemblyman Ron Canestrari for being with us today. They represent a Legislature that has worked hard - with this Department and the Governor - to make our system the professional organization that it is today.

Governor Pataki also wanted to be with us. As many of you know, he is the first Governor to have ever attended our medals ceremony. He cannot be with us today because of other issues that demand his personal attention.

But he asked me to thank each and every one of you for being here today. The Governor believes it is a testament to your dedication and concern for Correctional employees that led each of you to join us here.

The Governor joins me in being especially thankful for the presence today of approximately 50 family members of some of the 33 employees who died in the line of duty.

You honor all of us by your presence here today. I want to welcome each of you on behalf of the Governor and all of the employees of this Department.

Today is an important day. It is the day when we officially recommit ourselves to our future by remembering our past and our present.

When we dedicated this sacred site last year in the memory of 32 fallen colleagues, we committed ourselves to an annual observance honoring those who gave the fullest measure to the people of New York state. I know we are all proud and humbled to be here today.

This year, we add to the memorial the name of Clinton shop foreman Joseph A. Weitekamp. After inmates had finished working in the clothing shop on March 18, 1922, he discovered a fire under a cutting table. After telephoning for assistance, he returned to fighting the shop fire alone while awaiting reinforcement. Eleven days later, he died from burns and smoke inhalation.

As we said during last year's dedication ceremony, we will continue to search our records to document the names of other employees who deserve to be added to this memorial.

I am gratified that we have been able to confirm Mr. Weitekamp's ultimate sacrifice and add his name to this place of honor and remembrance.

In honor of this week's events, Governor Pataki proclaimed June 3 to 9 as Correctional Services Employee Week in New York State. In his proclamation, he praised this ceremony today for honoring the memory of our 33 fallen colleagues and the extraordinary service of our three medal recipients.

He said - and I quote - "it is fitting that New Yorkers remember and commend all Correctional employees carrying out their perilous and challenging duties with the greatest professionalism and attentiveness to public safety." End quote.

The Governor also expressed his respect for the actions of COs Glen Williams, Tom Cassidy and Gary Mitchetti.

In letters to each of the medals recipients, the Governor wrote - quote - "You carry on the admired traditions of professionalism, valor and excellence which have long been the standard of the 32,000 men and women who work in 70 correctional facilities throughout the Empire state." End quote.

It is through the on-going dedication, vigilance and hard work of all of our employees that we maintain the security and safety of our prisons.

I appreciate the efforts of all of our employees. They led last year to the lowest rates in 20 years of inmate assaults on staff and other inmates.

But there are still too many. I consider even one assault on staff to be one too many.

We will work together to make this system as safe and secure as humanly possible. I do not want to add another name to our memorial room in the Academy behind you.

Governor Pataki and the Legislature have joined with us in trying to make our system as secure as possible.

They have restored the death penalty in response to heinous conduct. The vile actions of "inmate throwers" has been criminalized.

We also have the tools provided by Governor Pataki:

  • He has proposed and built the cells we need to house violent offenders.
  • He has increased staffing and mandated that vacancies be kept at a minimum.
  • He has enriched the programs that provide inmates with positive direction for their energies.

I look forward to our future cooperative efforts with the Legislature to advance the Governor's programs - working together to increase prison safety for our employees and the people of New York state.

Thank you.