Jeffrey Beard, 66, was confirmed by the California Senate as the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation secretary on Thursday.
Beard, a licensed psychologist with a doctorate in counseling, had been serving as acting CDCR secretary since his appointment by Gov. Jerry Brown in December.
He previously served as secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections from 2001 until he retired in 2010.
The CDCR is California’s correctional agency and includes the Division of Adult Operations, the Division of Adult Programs and the Division of Juvenile Justice. It consists of 33 adult prisons, 45 conservation camps, and three youth facilities, as well as various boards and commissions.
Beard is now officially secretary of a system that faces a number of challenges, including a federal order to shrink the prison population by 9,600 before the end of the year to reduce crowding in state facilities. It also faces several lawsuits over medical care, psychiatric care, and the use of force and solitary confinement.
The system is also dealing with a hunger strike that began on Monday. California inmates at several correctional facilities have been refusing to eat in protest of a solitary confinement program for gang leaders.