Secretary of Corrections
John E. Wetzel, Secretary
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Secretary Wetzel is widely
recognized as one of the thought leaders in corrections today.
With more than 28 years of
experience, his career began in Lebanon County (PA) as a corrections officer in
1989. His time there was followed by nine years at Berks County (PA) where he
served as a correctional officer, counselor, treatment supervisor and finally
director of the Training Academy. Then, in January of 2002, he began his nine-year
tenure as warden of the Franklin County (PA) Jail. It was there where he was
credited with leading an effort that resulted in the transformation of their
correctional system. Under his leadership, Franklin County saw a 20 percent reduction
in its population while the crime rate declined. Franklin County was at the forefront of
maximizing its correctional continuum to reduce reliance on incarceration
while focusing on improving outcomes for offenders. Specifically they developed
a Day Reporting Center, established a Jail Industries Program and initiated
several programs targeting improved services for mentally ill offenders, not
the least of which being a Certified Peer Specialist program in 2006.
He is a national consultant and
speaker whose areas of expertise include staffing, vulnerability assessment,
mentally ill offenders, developing employment opportunities for formerly
incarcerated offenders, population management, mitigating impacts on the families/children
of incarcerated individuals and effecting system change.
He was appointed to the PA
Board of Pardons, by then-Governor Edward Rendell (D), as the Board's
Corrections Expert where he subsequently led a change in the pardons process
resulting in an increased production of the board while alleviating an elevated
waiting time for applicants.
In December 2010, he was
selected as the 11th secretary of corrections for the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania by Governor-elect Corbett. His tenure there saw an elimination of
a 24-year average growth of 1,500 inmates per year, presiding over the first
population reduction in PA in over four decades. Additionally, he oversaw the
restructuring of the community corrections system, the mental health system and
a re-engineering of internal processes to yield a more efficient system of
In January 2015, Governor
Tom Wolf asked Wetzel to continue as the secretary of corrections making him
the 12th person to hold that position for the Commonwealth of
He is a member of Harvard’s Executive Session on Community Corrections,
which is a joint project of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and
the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
Consisting of 30 of the leading policymakers, practitioners and
researchers from across the country, the intent is to shape the meaning and
future of community corrections policy in the United States. The Executive
Session will develop best practices and thinking for professionals across the
public safety and criminal justice spectrum.
He has been selected as the vice chair of the Council of State Government
Justice Center Executive Board and is a member of the Colson Task Force on
federal prison overcrowding. He is
also vice president of ASCA (Association of State Correctional
Administrators). In May 2016, the
Indiana University of Pennsylvania presented to him an honorary doctor of
secretary is the former offensive line coach for Shippensburg University and a
founding member of the St. Seraphim homeless shelter. He also initiated a
program to positively impact disadvantaged youth by inviting private
sector/higher education entities to develop programs specifically focused on
them, similar to the president's My Brother's Keeper initiative.