By Judy Beck, Director of Communications
HELENA – Department of Corrections Director Reginald D. Michael and Montana State Prison Interim Warden Jim Salmonsen spoke at a ceremony on the capitol grounds on Wednesday to recognize the contributions made by the men and women who work in Montana’s prisons, as Probation and Parole officers, and in other corrections professions.
After a minute of silence, Director Michael 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.
“The work that our correctional professionals do each day is critical to the safety of our communities,” Director Michael said. “Whether it be in custodial environments or beyond those walls in communities throughout our state, the value of that service can never be overstated.”
In his remarks, Interim Warden Salmonsen also remembered Sonja Ryan, who was killed in 2007 when a bus transporting MSP staff to the prison struck a deer and overturned.
“We are reminded of the bravery and vigilance of those who choose a career in corrections,” Salmonsen said. “The courage, training and dedication of our correctional professionals help keep us all safe – even as they put themselves in harm's way.”
For the second year, the ceremony featured a metal wreath designed and crafted by an inmate who worked in the Montana Correctional Enterprises metal fabrication and plasmacam program.
Troopers from the Montana Highway Patrol provided the Honor Guard for the ceremony. They were led by Sgt. Jay Nelson from Helena, and included Trooper Marcus Cook from West Yellowstone, Trooper Fiafia Seau from Great Falls and Trooper Kate Trewick from Eureka.
Phil Hohenlohe, a piper with the Pipes and Drums of the Black Devils, played The Rowan Tree, a traditional Scottish folk song, and Amazing Grace.
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/.