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James Erwin Named Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Corrections

James Erwin, an accomplished leader in prison operations with more than three decades of experience, has been appointed as the new commissioner for the Department of Corrections (DOC), Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley announced today.

Erwin was appointed as interim head of DOC last year after serving seven years as deputy commissioner of the Office of Adult Institutions. His career has spanned more than 33 years, encompassing work in 10 institutions and two state correctional departments, where he held leadership positions.

“Commissioner Erwin has provided a steady hand amid daunting challenges with our prison population and infrastructure,” Secretary Tilley said. “He brings unmatched expertise in operational security, and he has done yeoman’s work over the past year as we’ve redesigned probation and parole, reentry and community supervision. We look forward to his leadership in continuing this momentum.”

Erwin began his career as a front-line corrections officer in 1985 before rising through the ranks and into administrative roles. He served as a warden or deputy warden at four institutions in Ohio and joined the DOC Central Office in Kentucky in 2007 as director of operations for adult institutions.

His experience includes strategic planning, leadership development, contract and labor management, and overall prison operations, including security and programs. He also brings experience in managing specialized offender populations, including medical needs, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and restrictive housing.

Erwin earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Centre College and a master’s degree in justice administration from the University of Louisville.

“I am honored to be appointed the commissioner of the Department of Corrections,” Erwin said. “It is both humbling and exciting to lead a department comprised of corrections professionals so fully dedicated to the mission of public safety and reentry.”

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