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CE Latimers Remarks 003May 15, 2019 – On May 10, as part of National Correctional Professionals Week, the Westchester County Department of Correction (DOC) celebrated a truly golden milestone. At a ceremony attended by over 250 retirees, active members of service, care providers and partners, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Correction Commissioner Joseph K. Spano reflected on the many challenges, changes and achievements of the largest law enforcement agency in Westchester. 

2019 marks DOC’s fiftieth year as a criminal justice agency, formed in 1969 from what were then functions of the County Sheriff and the Department of Public Welfare.  In merging these functions, Westchester sought to extend the rehabilitative initiatives afforded to its sentenced offenders to pre-trial detainees, and to create a unified workforce of similarly-credentialed officers.  

In his remarks, Latimer discussed some of the functions of County government that may go unnoticed by the public but which are critical to public health and community safety, including the operation of the Correction Department. Latimer stated: “There’s a fine line -- how do you deal with individuals who have seriously broken the rules of society?  It requires simultaneously balancing punishment with rehabilitation and a productive return to society.  That may be as difficult a task as Westchester County government has to accomplish.”

Following the County Executive's remarks, he presented Spano with a brass eagle, dedicated to the men and women of the department and commemorating their achievement as part of National Correctional Professionals Week.

Spano provide the attendees with a wonderful overview of the Department’s 50 years of history, from its inception during the civil rights movement of 1960s and 1970s, through the challenges of the 1980s and 1990s and up to the present day, where DOC now has the distinction of being a national leader in criminal justice reform.  Showcasing the many innovative reentry and rehabilitation programs and the dedication of its 800+ staff, Spano stated: “We now have 31 active rehabilitative and reentry programs, and hundreds of community partners with whom we work hand-in-hand to prepare returning citizens for successful reentry.  Those partnerships are a large part of why we are considered a leader in the corrections space, and it’s working.”  Comm. Spano then noted that the Department’s local inmate census was 734, its lowest in over 35 years.

DOCs Honor GuardFollowing Spano’s remarks, Chairman Benjamin Boykin presented the Department with a Proclamation on behalf of the County Board of Legislators, noting that the Department’s officers, supervisors, civilians, program providers and spiritual leaders place themselves in harm’s way on every shift and, in doing so, perform a critical frontline public safety function that is often recognized by too few, but with an impact felt by all.

Genevieve Dishotsky, age 80, the daughter of DOC’s first Commissioner Roberts Wright, flew in from California to attend and was recognized by Spano as a guest of honor.  In discussing the career of Wright, Professor Anthony Czarnecki noted that Wright’s longtime commitment to social justice and rehabilitation was a driving force behind his 1968 appointment by then-County Executive Edwin Michaelian.

The ceremony featured the Department’s Ceremonial Honor Guard, the Westchester County Police Emerald Society’s Pipes and Drums and over fifty years of retirees, staff members and elected officials that made major contributions to the agency and to those it serves. Many historical artifacts, photographs and curated documents were also displayed, along with specialized tactical equipment and other memorabilia.  The ceremony concluded with a benediction from the Department’s longtime Imam, John Nashid, who prayed for the safety of those in attendance, those working in the facility, and of the individuals who find themselves involved in the criminal justice system.