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Jeffrey Beard sworn in as California’s corrections secretary

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Jeffrey Beard, the former prisons chief of Pennsylvania, was sworn in Thursday morning as Gov. Jerry Brown’s new corrections secretary.

A spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed that Beard took his oath of office from a member of the governor’s staff at agency headquarters in Sacramento. His appointment still requires confirmation by the California Senate.

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Beard has little more than a week to sign off on whatever plans California proposes to further reduce prison crowding. The state has a Jan. 7 deadline to report those plans to a panel of three federal court judges overseeing class action lawsuits for inadequate prison medical, mental and dental health care.

Beard is taking the helm at an agency that has managed some reductions in the prison population, is in the midst of laying off parole agents and health workers, and yet is still over budget in its expenditures. The legislative analyst’s office projects an ongoing prison budget of $8.3 billion. Brown’s budget had promised to cut prison spending to $7.8 billion by shifting low-level felons to counties. Overall, the state faces an expected $1.9 billion deficit that will have to be filled in June.

Beard, 65, retired as Pennsylvania prisons chief in 2010 and has worked since then as a private consultant, including advising California on prison mental health issues.

The new corrections secretary, through his public relations office, has refused media interview requests. The agency’s press office states he will be ‘unavailable’ until at least late January. Likewise, his swearing-in ceremony Thursday was conducted in private.

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--Paige St. John in Sacramento


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