WALLA WALLA -- The Department of Corrections team that relayed information about the execution of convicted murder Cal Brown last year was recognized for excellence today by the state Department of Corrections.
The seven-member team from Washington State Penitentiary and Thurston County was awarded the agency's 2011 Team Excellence Award for Eastern Washington in a ceremony at the Yakima Readiness Center.
Another penitentiary staff member, Mary Moss, was awarded the department's statewide Diversity Award, and three others were singled out for awards to DOC employees in Eastern Washington.
Team members Shari Hall, Maria Peterson, Joni Aiyeku, Lori Scamahorn, Kimberly Reifsnider, John Anthony and Belinda D. Stewart were recognized for their work to provide information to the news media, the public and others in days and hours leading up to Brown's Sept. 10 execution, the first one in the state since 2001.
Awards for Eastern Washington were presented to Robert Slack, Correctional Officer of the Year; Arline Finkbiner, Volunteer of the Year; and Richard Cross, Health Service Supervisor of the Year.
Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl, who lost her life in the line of duty in January, is being recognized as the statewide Correctional Officer of the Year. A statewide correctional officer award had not been given in some time, but this year the agency chose to honor Biendl's memory in this way, Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail said in a release.
"This has undoubtedly been a difficult year but despite the challenges we have faced staff have done an extraordinary job keeping our facilities and communities safe," Vail said. "Staff are our greatest asset and they put their lives on the line daily to ensure communities in Washington are safe. We are extremely grateful for their commitment and the contributions of our volunteers who have given their time to aid us in our effort to improve public safety."
Staff members from the west side of the state were honored last week by Gov. Chris Gregoire and DOC officials at a ceremony held at the state Labor and Industries headquarters in Thurston County.