Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a former Pennsylvania prison chief to head California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Brown's office announced Wednesday.
Jeffrey Beard, 65, was secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections from 2001 to 2010.
Beard consulted for California on a lawsuit filed on behalf of inmates who complained prisons failed to provide adequate mental health treatment, and he was a member of a 2007 panel assessing the effectiveness of California's adult prison and parole programs, according to the Governor's Office.
Beard replaces Matt Cate, who announced his resignation in October to become executive director of the California State Association of Counties.
The appointment comes at a critical time for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which is shifting responsibility for many newly convicted, low-level offenders from prisons to county control.
The measure is part of an effort by the prison system to shed costs and comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that California must reduce the number of inmates in its overcrowded system.
"The new secretary has just the experience California needs," the Democratic governor said in a prepared statement. "He's been a prison warden, led the correctional system in Pennsylvania, and more recently participated in the federal oversight of California's prisons, visiting the majority of our institutions.
"In the face of a plethora of federal court decisions and the bold realignment enacted by the Legislature, Jeff Beard has arrived at the right time to take the next steps in returning California's parole and correctional institutions to their former luster."
Beard held various positions within the Pennsylvania state prison system beginning in 1972, including corrections counselor, classification and treatment supervisor, superintendent and executive deputy secretary, according to Brown's office.
As secretary, Beard oversaw more than 51,000 inmates and 16,000 employees, according to Brown's office. He worked for both Republican and Democratic governors.
Beard, of Bellefonte, Pa., is registered decline-to-state. The position requires Senate confirmation and pays $225,000 a year.