FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
CONTACT: Judy Beck, 444-0409
HELENA – Lt. Governor Mike Cooney joined Department of Corrections Interim Director Loraine Wodnik and Montana State Prison Warden Michael Fletcher on the capitol grounds on Tuesday to recognize the contribution made by the men and women who work in Montana’s prisons and other corrections professions.
Cooney noted that one of his favorite events during the legislative session is the reception catered by offenders in the Passages Culinary Arts Program out of Billings. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that our corrections professionals see hope and humanity in people the rest of society has largely written off.”
The Lt. Governor read the names of the four Montana State Prison employees whose names are engraved on the capitol law enforcement memorial, dating from 1908 to 1985.
“We recognize that your jobs are some of the most difficult imaginable,” Cooney said. “Like other states in the nation, Montana’s corrections employees are facing the increasingly violent and sometimes bizarre behavior related to the surge in meth and other dangerous drugs. And in our secure facilities, the smuggling and other complications tied to drones and cell phones.”
Interim Director Wodnik referenced recent situations involving staff at the Montana State Prison and in Probation and Parole offices in different communities throughout the state that could have ended with another name added to the law enforcement memorial.
“The fact that our staff respond in such a competent, professional manner allows us to successfully navigate such difficult situations,” Wodnik said.
Wodnik also noted that, rather than a floral wreath, this year’s ceremony featured a metal wreath designed and crafted by an inmate who works in the Montana Correctional Enterprises metal fabrication and plasmacam program.
Wodnik also introduced Mike Fletcher, the men’s prison warden who took over from Warden Leroy Kirkegard on April 17 of this year.
“As the new warden at Montana State Prison, I am proud to serve the people of Montana and a state where hard work, honesty, respect and a handshake still mean something,” Fletcher said. “Operating a prison requires a dedicated team of competent professionals and constant vigilance.”
Officers from the Treasure State Training Center in Deer Lodge who served as the color guard for the ceremony were Lt. Terry Dovey, Sgt. Matthew Brady, Sgt. Anthony Roselles and Sgt. Dan Williamson.
The ceremony was held in conjunction with National Correctional Professionals Week, which runs from May 7 to 13. National Correctional Employees Week was created in 1984 by then-President Ronald Reagan to acknowledge the work done by the men and women serving in the field of corrections.
The names of four Montana corrections employees are engraved in the stone memorial that honors officers killed in the line of duty:
- Deputy warden John Robinson – Robinson was stabbed to death by two inmates he had escorted to the warden’s office on March 8, 1908.
- Officer Frank L. Russell – Russell, 58, died of an accidental gunshot wound as he carried two rifles and a bag containing ammunition and a .45 caliber Colt revolver to his duty station in a prison tower. As he dropped the bag, the Colt fired, hitting Russell in the head. Russell left his wife and two children.
- Deputy warden Theodore Rothe – Rothe was shot and died on Thursday, April 16, 1959, during a prison riot in which inmates took 16 correctional officers hostage. The 35-hour riot ended when the Montana National Guard stormed the prison and regained control. Deputy warden Rothe, 40, was survived by his wife and two children.
- Correctional officer Richard Wallace – Wallace died on December 30, 1985, when a propane tank exploded in the MSP administration building that was under construction. Wallace left his wife and children.
Photos and additional information about the officers killed are available at the Officer Down Memorial website: http://www.odmp.org/.