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Name: Beard, Jeffrey
Current Position: Former Secretary

Sentencing reform advocate and former Pennsylvania prisons chief Jeffrey A. Beard was named Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in December 2012 by Governor Jerry Brown. He replaced Matthew Cate, who left in October after four and a half years to head the California State Association of Cities.

The appointment came with the department in the middle of a major realignment to reduce overcrowding by shifting inmates from state institutions to local jails while the state revamps the parole system and reassesses sentencing determinations.

Beard has three degrees from Penn State: a 1969 bachelor's degree in psychology, a 1972  master's of education in counseling; and a 1980 doctorate in counseling. He was licensed as a psychologist in 1977.

Beard began his career in Pennsylvania corrections―after receiving his master’s―as a Rockview state prison counselor from 1972 to 74. He was promoted to counselor supervisor in 1974, classification treatment supervisor in 1975 and deputy superintendent for treatment in 1977.

Beard left Rockview in 1986 to become superintendent at Cresson state prison. He transferred to Camp Hill state prison as superintendent in 1990 after two major riots there did widespread damage to the facility. Beard stayed until 1995, when he moved into the front office. He was named deputy corrections secretary in 1995 and served two years before becoming executive deputy corrections secretary.

Beard, who is registered as decline-to-state, was appointed the Department of Pennsylvania Corrections secretary in 2001 by Republican Governor Tom Ridge. He continued to serve in the position under Republican Governor Mark Schweiker and Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.

During Beard’s 38-year tenure in the Pennsylvania corrections system, the state inmate population grew from 8,000 to 51,300. Much of this increase was caused by tougher laws that put more non-violent and less-serious offenders in prison. Beard was an early advocate for treatment courts, alternative sentences and other innovative programs that are being rolled out now in California. Court orders to reduce prison overcrowding and provide inmates better health care prompted a 2011 law that has been sending less serious offenders to local jails instead of state prisons.

At least one Pennsylvania state prison observer questioned whether Beard’s reform credentials were enough to judge his administration a success. While acknowledging Beard’s contribution to improving visitation policies and reducing the number of nonviolent offenders inside prison walls, Pennsylvania Prison Society Executive Director Bill DiMascio gave him mixed marks overall. “He leaves with 2,000 prisoners out of state and four new prisons on the drawing board. I don't think that's the legacy he was looking for,” DiMascio said.   

Beard left the department in 2010 and spent the last year and a half as a Professor of Practice at the Justice Center for Research at Penn State University. In addition to teaching, he has been a consultant to state agencies, private companies, the National Institute of Corrections and California’s corrections department. He also worked with California in 2007 when he served as a member of the “Expert Panel on Adult Offender and Recidivism Reduction Programming,” which assessed the state’s prison and parole programs.

Beard resigned at the end of 2015.


To Learn More:

Governor Brown Appoints New Corrections Secretary (Press release)

Gov. Brown Appoints New Leader for California's Troubled Prison System (by Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times)

New CA Prisons Chief Described as Nerdy, Politically Savvy (by Rina Palta, KPCC)

Jerry Brown Taps Former Pennsylvania Prison Chief to Lead California Prisons (by David Siders, Sacramento Bee)

Brown's Choice for Prisons Chief Is Sentencing Reform Advocate (by Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times)

California Picks Retiree to Head Prisons System (by Dan Thompson, Associated Press)

PA Corrections Chief Steps Down after Nine Years (

Governor-Elect Makes Three More Cabinet Nominations (Amy Worden, Philadelphia Inquirer)

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