Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

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

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182
www.doccs.ny.gov

For immediate release:

4 PM on Thursday, June 7, 2001

Correctional Services honors 33 employees who died in the line of duty;
recognizes 1 current employee with Medal of Honor, 2 others with Medal of Merit

As bagpipers played, Taps echoed and a rifle squad fired a 21-gun salute, the Department of Correctional Services at 4 p.m. today awarded three current employees medals for extraordinary service last year while honoring the memory of 33 employees who died in the line of duty as the result of inmate actions since 1861.

Among the more than 1,000 guests attending the ceremony at the permanent memorial on the grounds of the Training Academy in Albany were approximately 50 family members of some of the 33 employees who lost their lives as the result of inmate actions. Also present were 10 of the hostages from the 1971 riot at Attica and their family members. The ceremony was held during the June 5-9 statewide employee Olympics in Albany to allow the 1,750 participants to attend.

In proclaiming June 3-9 as Correctional Services Employee Week, Governor George E. Pataki wrote, "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."

Of the 33 fallen employees being remembered today, Governor Pataki said in a statement, "It has been said that the great majority of people shrink from the ultimate sacrifice, but there are a few who make it with courage and honor. These few are the heroes of humanity."

As part of the ceremony, Commissioner Glenn S. Goord awarded:

  • The Medal of Honor for bravery to Officer Glen H. Williams of Green Haven. He repeatedly placed himself between an armed inmate and Deputy Superintendent George Schneider on September 27, 2000, to block the inmate's knife attacks in a prison yard on the prison's chief security officer. He escorted Mr. Schneider, who sustained multiple stab wounds, from the yard and then returned to help disarm the inmate. CO Williams, 38, has been an Officer since 1986.
  • A Medal of Merit for extraordinary performance to Officer Gary L. Mitchetti of Green Haven. He was stabbed twice while helping other Officers to disarm and control the inmate attacking Mr. Schneider. CO Mitchetti, 28, has been an Officer since 1997.
  • A Medal of Merit for exceptional contribution to Officer Thomas R. Cassidy while assigned to Arthur Kill. He came to the aid of victims of a January 16, 2000, fiery multiple-vehicle accident on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn. He assisted in removing victims from a burning vehicle and then came to aid of the injured in a second vehicle. He then assisted the efforts of medical and other rescue personnel. CO Cassidy, 30, has been an Officer since 1998. He is now assigned as an investigator in the Long Island City office of the Department's Office of the Inspector General.

In his proclamation, Governor Pataki cited "the resourcefulness and dedication of outstanding Correctional employees" who are recognized through the annual medals ceremony.

In his letters to each of the medals recipients, the Governor wrote "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." (Both the Governor's proclamation and his letters to the medal recipients can be downloaded from the Department's website.)

Senate Codes Committee Chairman Dale M. Volker of Depew, the Senate representative speaking at the ceremony whose district includes Attica, said, "The individuals we recognize today powerfully remind us of the suffering and sacrifices made to ensure our safety from those who simply cannot abide by our laws. Today's tribute is a constant reminder that freedom is never free; it is a gift, selflessly purchased by others and at times at great personal cost. The names inscribed in Correctional Services' memorial room and commemorated by the memorial itself are not simply names, but a vivid reminder and warning of the perils and the price of complacency in our still dangerous and unpredictable world of Corrections."

Assemblyman Ronald Canestrari, the Deputy Majority Leader whose district includes part of Albany County, said, "Working in our correctional facilities is a difficult and dangerous job. Today's ceremony serves as a reminder that the important work these employees perform deserves recognition and commendation. I am honored to take part in this ceremony and acknowledge that one of our chief goals in society is to keep our citizens safe, and the work of our Correctional officers and civilian employees helps advance that goal in a meaningful and critical manner."

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

The 33rd name added to the memorial this year is that 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 in the shop. After telephoning for assistance, he returned to fighting the fire alone while awaiting reinforcement. Eleven days later, he died from burns and smoke inhalation.

Commissioner Goord said, "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."

The deceased employees now total 25 uniformed personnel and eight civilians; the total includes three women. The total comes from Attica (12), Auburn (six), Clinton (six), Sing Sing (three) and one each from Elmira, Fishkill, Eastern, Green Haven and Great Meadow prisons, plus one employee who worked in New York City in the parole division when it was part of Correctional Services until 1977.

Among them are the 11 who died in the 1971 riot at Attica. Three others held the title of Principal Keeper (now Deputy Superintendent for Security) at Auburn 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 prison) 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. CO Payant remains the only female Officer in New York to die in the line of duty.

The ceremony took place at the permanent memorial park dedicated in 2000 on the 50-acre Academy campus. The centerpiece of the memorial park in front of the Academy is an 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."

No names are inscribed on the memorial stone. Instead, each honoree's name, identifying details and cause of death are inscribed on plaques located in the memorial room of the adjoining Academy.

The park surrounding the memorial is landscaped and decorated with 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 with the entrance to the Academy.

The Academy itself was constructed in 1952 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany 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 in an average year, with an equal number of higher-level staff receiving specialized training there annually. The Academy has a staff of approximately 45.

Notes to media:

  • Those wanting still photographs of the memorial service or awards ceremony can download them after our targeted posting at 7:30 p.m. today on our website: www.doccs.ny.gov Call DOCS with any problems at [518] 457-8182.
  • Those wanting a video feed of same should look to this Ku-band satellite window:

    Program start: 7:00:00 p.m. June 7 Program End: 7:15:00 p.m. June 7

    Satellite: GE 5 Location: 79 degrees west longitude

    Transponder: 16 Lower Receive frequency: 12155 MHZ

    Audio: 6.2 or 6.8 MHZ (mono) Polarity: Horizontal

    SUNYSAT tech support hotline: [518] 453-9521 or, if busy, [518] 443-5333