Several individuals who have demonstrated dedication and excellence in the corrections profession throughout their careers were recognized during an Awards Luncheon held in conjunction with JAILCON23 Western Regional Conference on Wednesday, June 7th, 2023, at the Gila River Resort at Wild Horse Pass, in Chandler, Arizona. NIJO Executive Director, Tate McCotter, who presented awards to the recipients of the JAILCON23 Western Region Corrections Professionals Awards. McCotter also recognized agencies and individuals who had earned NIJO National Accreditation and Professional Certification. In addition to these awards, Commander Brent Kimbriel (Yavapai County, AZ) along with representatives from many Arizona county sheriffs’ offices honored recipients of the Arizona Sheriffs’ Association Awards.

NIJO wishes to extend our congratulations to the following award recipients.



Cassandra O'Brien
Adult Diversion Officer/Case Manager, 14th Judicial

Nominated by her Sheriff, Cassandra O’Brien is the Adult Diversion Officer/Case Manager for the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. As the Adult Diversion Officer for the 14th Judicial District, she provides support services for Grand County, Routt County and Moffat County. Cassandra began this newly grant funded position on December 1, 2020. She has many responsibilities including coordinating the Jail Based Behavioral Services (JBBS) program which did not exist in Grand County prior to the creation of her new position. In the Fall of 2022 Cassandra, recognized a vital need by inmates being released in our often cold and inclement weather and came up with the innovative idea of hosting a coat drive. A press release, corresponding social media posts and news stories were shared by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office to engage the community’s involvement. The overwhelmingly positive community response and coat donations received, has changed what was originally a month-long coat drive into a year-round project. The coat drive initiative was so successful a permanent coat rack now hangs in the front entrance of the Sheriff’s Office lobby. As inmates are released and as citizens come in and out of the Sheriff’s Office conducting normal business, they see coats hung with care below a sign that reads, “If the cold weather is on your mind, please take a warm coat, as they were donated by someone kind.” Her sheriff says: “The simple act of receiving a warm coat on a freezing night or day, and knowing it was donated by someone that was not judging, only caring, might make a world of difference in someone’s life. That someone could be anyone, from anywhere. Afterall, does anyone truly plan on being incarcerated? Cassandra’s servant heart shines brightly and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and Grand County community are blessed and honored to have her working in her position and serving our inmate population.”


Greenlee County Sheriff's Office, AZ

Before 2019 the facility was still operating on a paper and pencil system for most of the daily operation. In March of 2019 Guardian RFID was installed and most of the operational paperwork was replaced by using the Spartan devices to digitally record officer tasks. We also worked with HomeWAV to provide inmate phones, video visiting, inmate messaging, and a platform that would allow staff to respond to facility documents from the inmates. In this year we also recently signed a contract to provide tele-medicine and psychiatric services to our inmates. Before this the inmates only received medical treatment in house. This agreement brought on a doctor who was familiar with correctional medicine and the ability to provide mental health to the inmates, which we did not have before. We also started working with Encartel who provided a TV for each of our housing units, staff area, and front lobby. This system is a great way for our facility to provide fair notice of information to the inmates such as inmate rules, bondsman info, how to file institutional forms, news, weather, etc., and inform staff of training or other critical information. Like numerous facilities, ours struggled with maintaining policy. In 2022 we contracted with the National Institute of Jail Operations to create legal based policy with the goal to to operate a constitutional and a legal based policy will help us reach that goal. We also discovered that NIJO offered an Academy of Basic Corrections through internet classes. By using these classes combined with some of the material that needed to be taught in-person and our FTO program, we were able to create a training program that is more practical to hire and train low levels of new applicants while still accomplishing physical fitness and defensive tactics. Congratulations to Sheriff Tim Sumner, Jail Commander Tyler Attaway and the entire Detention Staff at Greenlee County Sheriff’s Office!


Most of the nominations this year discussed their nominee’s loss of overtime earned due to pulling extra shifts. Understanding these dynamics, we recognize there are many that qualify for this award. Because of this we selected two recipients this year.

Lt. Justin Branner
Johnson County Sheriff's Office, KS

Lt. Justin Branner has gone above and beyond to demonstrate a dedication to excellence this year. The duties he is responsible for were previously divided among 6 lieutenants, but because of staffing and reorganization, they are now split between 3 lieutenants. Lt. Branner has never once complained about the substantially increased workload and has instead thrived under this pressure. Specifically, Lt. Branner was instrumental in creating a Maximum-Security Team. Prior to the creation of the team, new officers were finding it difficult to manage this custody level and many rule violations and disturbances occurred. The creation of the Maximum-Security Team has improved consistency and staff morale by allowing them to thrive in a team environment as well as work an improved schedule. Lt. Branner is also a leader of the Peer Support Unit. This has been incredibly important this year, as Johnson County staff, as well as many across the nation, have dealt with the difficulties associated with this profession. Their division had a staff member fall victim to suicide, and Lt. Branner immediately began coordinating debriefs with all of their crews. Furthermore, he helped facilitate commemorative signs in their facilities that read, “Your Fight is Our Fight.” He facilitated wellness training for our staff on multiple shifts and organizes after-hours events for staff such as Pancakes with Santa, which hundreds of employees and their families participated in. He is currently working with “Monkey Brain Art,” a veterans-run organization, to provide art sessions for employees and their families as an outlet for stress and PTSD.

Sgt. Dane Browning
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, AZ

Sgt. Dane Browning’s accomplishments with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) have been wide-ranging and help paint the picture of his work ethic and commitment to the agency and public service. He is currently the Infectious Control Supervisor with the Occupational Safety Division at MCSO. Additionally, he is a Certified Corrections Supervisor (CCS), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Phlebotomist, Detention Firearms Instructor, and a member of MCSO’s Honor Guard. Responsibilities Sgt. Browning has been directly involved with include revamping office wide policy, testing procedures and equipment to support this new policy, constant communication and contact tracing in collaboration with Correctional Health regarding COVID exposures, critiques, and revisions of several critical and other office policies, researched new products in efforts to maintain the agencies safety culture, been present during blood draws, coordinated curriculum, and taught at the MCSO Training Center, etc. Dane consistently puts the needs of the Office above his own. Last year alone he attended 43 Honor Guard events, 18 Firearms Classes, 1000 Contact Tracing reports, 2 jail fentanyl mass casualty events, as well as dozens of accident investigations. One example of this is when he took it upon himself, after noticing that another department for Maricopa County had adjusted the salary range for LPN’s, to ensure that the LPN with OSD’s salary had also been adjusted. This action speaks volumes of how Sgt. Browning values his team and works to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and respectfully. Sgt. Browning also dedicates time off-duty including a law enforcement Toy Drive, and Spring Fling staff event for MCSO employees. He is also a proud father of two, husband, and active community member in his neighborhood.


Owen McCann Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, WA
In 2022 and throughout his career, Corrections Deputy Owen McCann has distinguished himself as one of the hardest working, generous, selfless, and devoted members of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office. He worked 327.5 hours of overtime with an impeccable attendance record and with the flexibility of adjusting his shifts to prevent overtime on other shifts. He is known for answering his phone when duty calls. In addition to his hard work and selflessness, Deputy McCann also received three life-saving awards in 2022 for incidents in which he provided a crucial role. The first incident, in June of 2022, Deputy McCann, with the help of some others, assisted an inmate after an attempted suicide. He recorded vitals and stayed with the inmate until the EMT’s arrived. The second incident, in December of 2022, Deputy McCann assisted an inmate who was experiencing an overdose. After the Narcan was applied, Deputy McCann rode in the ambulance with the inmate to have him medically cleared. The third incident, 3 days after the last incident, Deputy McCann assisted another inmate with an attempted suicide. He called to the inmate in his cell who did not respond. He entered the cell, loosened the blanket rope off of the inmate’s neck, radioed for assistance, and started chest compressions. With the help of other staff in the facility, they continued chest compressions and AED’s until the EMT’s took over. Shortly after, the inmate regained a pulse and survived the incident.


Blake Hamilton
Partner, Dentons Durham Jones Pinegar

Blake Hamilton, esq, has made a significant and profound impact upon the corrections and law enforcemenet profession. Not arrogant or cocky, he is always willing to lend a helping hand and has sacrified much for the betterment of our profession.

“Blake is someone you want in your corner. He is fiercely loyal and will dedicate himself tirelessly to helping you, whether you are his client, his colleague, or his friend. He lives for a good fight in the courtroom.” –Ashley Gregson

“Despite being one of the busiest lawyers at our firm, Blake has taken the time to introduce me to important aspects of the practice of law and has shared valuable insights into effective litigation strategies, professionalism, and service to clients.” –Johnny R. Richardson

“I have had the pleasure of working as Blake’s paralegal for the past 11 years. I have witnessed first-hand how hard this man works to solve his clients’ problems. Blake takes their legal matters personally, as if they were his own, and goes full speed ahead fighting for their rights. Having Blake on your side is truly an asset. — Melani Thatcher


The National Institute for Jail Operations developed the Professional Certification Program in response to the need to provide a respected national certification for individuals looking for a process that involved legal-based curriculum by an organization which supports and defends their agencies’ worthy goals and objectives. NIJO Professional Certification is a professional designation – earned not issued – for jail and detention officers, supervisors, administrators and sheriffs who have demonstrated to possess the requisite understanding, knowledge, skills, experience and abilities to function to a specific level. Achieving NIJO Certification is a significant accomplishment and reflects intense training, effort, experience and comprehension proving that an individual confidently knows and can follow clearly established laws and procedures in fulfilling his or her duties within a correctional facility.

National Certified Corrections Supervisor (NCCS)
Certification was awarded to the following

Commander Chris McCarthy
Apache County Sheriff's Office, AZ


NIJO Accreditation is an established process for correctional administrators to verify and be recognized nationally as compliant to what the law requires to run a constitutionally safe facility. As the only such accreditation in the country, NIJO promulgates over 600 Legal-Based GuidelinesTM specific to each state, to ensure that detention and correctional facilities comply with current legal requirements applicable to each state, circuit court and federal rulings and statutes. Achieving accreditation is not a walk in the park. It requires legal-based policies and procedures, documentation and consistency on all levels.

Pinal County Sheriff's Office, AZ

NIJO Accreditation is an established process for correctional administrators to verify and be recognized nationally as compliant to what the law requires to run a constitutionally safe facility. As the only such accreditation in the country, NIJO promulgates over 600 Legal-Based GuidelinesTM specific to each state, to ensure that detention and correctional facilities comply with current legal requirements applicable to each state, circuit court and federal rulings and statutes. Achieving accreditation is not a walk in the park. It requires legal-based policies and procedures, documentation and consistency on all levels.


Congratulations to all of these outstanding and dedicated professionals and their agencies. You are the unsung heroes of law enforcement. We appreciate you and are dedicated to providing legal-based training and resources for the employees of jails and detention facilities across the country.

You may also be interested in: JAILCON23 Western Regional Conference Summary.



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