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KDOC announces Champion of Justice awards

by Carol Pitts last modified Aug 04, 2021 11:04 AM
Four KDOC staff members recently received recognition through the KDOC Office of Victim Services (OVS) as part of the Champion of Justice Awards program.

Nominations for the Champion of Justice Awards were solicited from OVS staff, then staff chose one overall winner and three top honorees by anonymous ballot 

“We had nominees from every corner of KDOC for this year. It was an incredible list of employees doing phenomenal work,” said Audrey Cress, director of KDOC Office of Victim Services.

The four winners were surprised during July staff meetings and presented certificates of recognition in honor of their award. Criteria for the award includes dedication to the safety of crime victims and/or public safety in general while supporting offender success. The award can go to individuals for help provided on a particular case, demonstrating a consistent commitment to safety and success or for a program that has been implemented.

The overall 2021 Champion of Justice Award went to Kendra Vestal, Ellsworth Correctional Facility discharge planner in the reentry program. She has held her current position since 2019. Prior to joining KDOC we worked four years at ECF with the department's medical provider.

Vestral was instrumental in making the Batterer Intervention Program (BIP) accessible and successful for three residents at ECF this year. The program required participants to use zoom technology rather than attending in-person sessions at Lansing Correctional Facility (LCF). Maintaining a busy schedule with her normal duties, Vestral took on the extra efforts required to make sure the three participants had access to materials and technology, troubleshooting technology difficulties and coordinated the BIP staff visit to ECF to celebrate the participants’ success.

One of her nominators said, “Kendra was a real advocate for the BIP Program at ECF. And it was clear from the way she interacted with the BIP group members at ECF that she embodies the concepts of second chances, redemption and kindness to all.” Another nominator wrote: “When all three residents got their favorable board results, she personally delivered it to them so she could celebrate their success with them.” 

Pictured above, left to right: Audrey Cress, OVS director; Kendra Vestal, ECF discharge planner and 2021 KDOC Champion of Justice Award winner; Danielle Thompson, KDOC BIP Coordinator; and Jennifer Horst, KDOC BIP Assistant Coordinator

Three staff named 2021 Champion of Justice Honorees

Cora Gibson, Parole Officer, Hutchinson Parole Office

Cora Gibson joined KDOC as a parole officer with the Hutchinson Parole Office in May 2019. She served as a vocal advocate for a victim whose safety was in question when the offender was discharged from supervision sooner than expected. Gibson wrote a letter on behalf of the victim to the Crime Victims’ Compensation Board, securing funding for the victim to relocate and helping the victim find housing to increase safety. In the nomination materials,

Gibson was praised for advocating on behalf of victims and children and maintaining communication with the victims throughout the process.

Logan Hall, Parole Officer, Great Bend Parole Office

Logan Hall, parole officer with the Great Bend Parole Office, was described as “probably one of the most victim centered parole officers that I have worked with. Every time I work with Logan it is apparent that victim safety is a top priority for him.” 

Hall was a police officer before joining the KDOC staff as a parole officer in Great Bend in 2015.

His dedication to advocating on behalf of the victim and maintaining confidentiality while addressing the victim’s concerns has earned him the trust and respect of both the victims and his peers. One of his nominators wrote: “He has gone out of his way many times to meet with victims in person to discuss release plans, safety concerns and also when working on reintegration.”

Jillian Pollard, Parole Supervisor, Kansas City Parole Office

Jillian Pollard has served as parole supervisor with the Kansas City Parole Office since Aug. 2014. Previously she was a probation and parole officer in Missouri for 10 years, then joined KDOC in Sept. 2011 as a parole officer before being promoted to her current position. Her nominators noted she “creates a culture within her unit where victims are heard, respected, and supported.”

Pollard approaches offender supervision with compassion and humility while remaining responsive to victim services and the needs of the victims. “Her empathy, resourcefulness, and collaborative nature are an asset to our work and the people we serve,” nomination materials said.

About OVS

The Office of Victim Services (OVS) provides confidential support and information if you are the victim, survivor or witness to a crime and the offender was sentenced to the Kansas Department of Corrections.

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