Pennsylvania Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, a former corrections officer and county jail warden, will keep his job under Governor-elect Tom Wolf, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Wetzel has won respect from Democrats and Republicans alike. Wolf is a Democrat; Wetzel was chosen by outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican. He has overseen a set of sentencing changes, signed into law in 2012, that are intended to stem decades of rising prison populations and costs. Pennsylvania’s prisons ended 2014 with their lowest number of inmates since June 2009.
The agency said the trend, which includes a one-year drop of 908 inmates, the largest annual decline since 1971, is evidence that the Justice Reinvestment Initiative is working. The initiative aims to reduce state prison populations through changes that include more precisely targeting which inmates are sent to prison and which to halfway houses, reducing inefficiencies in the parole system and offering alternative punishments to more inmates. “I am happy to announce that Secretary Wetzel will be staying at the Department of Corrections,” Wolf said. “He shares my view that we need to be tough on crime and put the rights of victims first, while protecting the taxpayers with smart reforms that reduce non-violent prison sentences and ensure inmates gain skills to become productive members of society.”