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Gov. Brown appoints new leader for California’s troubled prison system

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Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday appointed the former head of Pennsylvania’s prison system to lead the troubled California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Brown announced his pick as secretary of the agency is Jeffrey Beard, 65, who retired in 2010 as the administrator of prisons in Pennsylvania.

Beard fills a vacancy created by the October resignation of Matthew Cate as the overseer of California’s prisons. Cate stepped down to become leader of the California State Assn. of Counties.

Beard takes over an agency that is laying off employees and engaged in talks with a federal receiver over how to improve prison healthcare for an overcrowded prison system. He has served as a consultant to the California system on mental health and recidivism issues.

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“The new secretary has just the experience California needs,’’ Brown said in a 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,’’ Brown added.

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