The California State Information Officers Council (SIOC) today named Lt. Christopher Acosta Public Information Officer of the Year during its annual awards ceremony recognizing excellence in state government communications.
The award marks the first time a CDCR field PIO has won this statewide award.
Lt. Acosta, a 23-year veteran of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), is the administrative assistant and public information officer (PIO) for Pelican Bay State Prison.
“Lt. Acosta facilitated an unprecedented number of visits from reporters from all over the world throughout 2012 to Pelican Bay State Prison and its Security Housing Unit (SHU). His work in facilitating these visits directly contributed to dispelling myths and fallacies about the SHU and helped the media and the public understand the purpose of the SHU and how CDCR combats gang activity,” said Deborah Hoffman, Assistant Secretary of CDCR’s Office of Public and Employee Communications.
Each of California’s 33 state prisons has someone designated as the warden’s administrative assistant (AA) and public information officer. As the AA/PIO at Pelican Bay State Prison, a high-security prison in Crescent City, Lt. Acosta reports directly to the warden and works on varying assignments to ensure the safe and effective operation of the prison.
He maintains close and ongoing communications with all prison staff, divisions within the prison, and the Office of Public and Employee Communications at CDCR headquarters. Lt. Acosta is the spokesperson for the prison; responds to all routine calls from reporters seeking information about incidents, programs, staff and inmates; drafts press releases and solicits media coverage for community events sponsored by the institution.
“We are so proud of Lt. Acosta receiving this top honor among all communications professionals in California state government. His extensive knowledge, tireless energy and friendly demeanor are truly an asset to Pelican Bay and CDCR,” said Clark Ducart, acting warden of Pelican Bay State Prison.
Lt. Acosta has been the PIO at Pelican Bay for two years and nine months. During 2012, he accommodated media visits from reporters all over the world, including the New York Times, KALW Radio, Mother Jones Magazine, the Guardian from the United Kingdom, Univision, KQED Public Broadcasting, California Watch, the Triplicate newspaper in Crescent City, the Curry Coastal Pilot, Rolling Stone magazine and the Los Angeles Times. He also facilitated tours from members of the Legislature, law enforcement organizations and criminal justice students from several colleges and universities.
“Lt. Acosta did not just facilitate visits from members of the media, he ensured they were educated about the purpose of the SHU and the public safety threat posed by prison gangs and security threat groups. This significantly contributed to our efforts to keep reporters informed about the department’s progress in implementing its new gang management strategies,” said Jeffrey Callison, CDCR Press Secretary.
The State Information Officers Council is a nonprofit organization offering professional development and networking opportunities for public information officers throughout California. In addition to its annual communications awards competition, SIOC raises funds to provide scholarships for college students majoring in journalism, communications, and public information management. The PIO of the Year award recognizes outstanding achievement in public information service.
CDCR’s online newsletter InsideCDCR also was honored as the top newsletter by SIOC.