Secretary John Wetzel is widely recognized as one of the thought leaders in corrections today. With nearly 25 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 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 their population while the crime rate declined. Franklin County was at the forefront of maximizing their 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.
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 Pennsylvania 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 then-Governor-elect Tom 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 more than 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 program delivery.
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’s Justice Center’s Executive Board. Finally, the 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. Secretary Wetzel is married with four daughters.