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Rehabilitation Programs Division

Volunteer Services Program

2017 Governor’s Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Awards

Austin Woman Receives Governor's 2017 Criminal Justice Volunteer Award

Photo of Award Winner(s) From left to right: TBCJ Chairman Dale Wainwright, Keynote Speaker Judge Sharon Keller, Deb Olin Unferth, WSD Principal Ann Warwas and TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier.

(AUSTIN) – Deb Unferth of Austin, Texas was presented the "Judy Burd – Windham School District" Award during the Governor's 2017 Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award program today.

The award was presented by Dale Wainwright, Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, and TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier during a ceremony held in Austin.

"It takes a special kind of person to give of their time and expect no material reward," said Bryan Collier, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "The contributions these volunteers make are invaluable and have a lasting impact on the public safety of our fellow Texans."

"By giving of their time and their gifts as volunteers, these award recipients are helping build a better community not only for themselves but for everyone whose lives they touch," said Wainwright.  

Ms. Unferth teaches a creative writing class for 15 offenders at the Connally Unit in Kenedy, Texas. By promoting higher order thinking among the participants, she has created a safe and positive classroom learning environment. "I was daring the students to believe that they have something to contribute and – that behind bars, separated from society – they are still participants in the world with voices and stories that are important and worthy," said Ms. Unferth.

The award is named in tribute to curriculum specialist Judy Burd who worked for the Windham School District where she developed the nationally recognized pre-release program called CHANGES. She was also the Volunteer Program Coordinator for the district who encouraged others to give of their time in service to others. Judy Burd also taught adult education classes at night in her community where she helped many people learn to read and write.

Ms. Unferth is one of 12 individuals and 9 organizations from across the state recognized for their efforts to help inmates and those who are on parole or probation. They donate many hours of their personal time every year with the goal of changing the lives of convicted offenders, and aiding and comforting their victims.

In FY2016, there were over 24,500 volunteers who provided a total of 390,711 hours of service.

Note to media: For more information, contact Jason Clark, TDCJ Public Information Director, at 936-437-6052 or by e-mail at jason.clark@tdcj.texas.gov – For high resolution photos of award recipients, contact Jene Andersen at jene.andersen@tdcj.texas.gov.