Gov. Tom Corbett nominated John E. Wetzel as secretary of the Department of Corrections on December 17, 2010, and he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on May 3, 2011.
Secretary Wetzel is responsible for the management and operations of the Corrections Department which houses more than 51,000 inmates, has approximately 15,000 employees, and a nearly $2 billion budget.
With more than 23 years of experience in the corrections field, his career began in 1989 as an officer at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility, followed by a transfer to the Berks County Prison, where he held the positions of correctional officer, treatment counselor, supervisor of treatment services and training academy director finally culminating to the position of warden of the Franklin County Jail in 2002.
He was appointed as the corrections expert to the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons in June 2007 until his confirmation as secretary of corrections in 2011.
During his tenure in corrections, Wetzel has presented statewide and nationally on various topics from inmate labor issues, the mentally ill in corrections to jail staffing and conducting vulnerability assessments, as well as, having several articles published nationally, and books on jail staffing and vulnerability assessments. Additionally, he has been part of several efforts which have reduced jail population, to include leading a process in Franklin County where the jail population was reduced by 20% while at the same time the crime rate reduced also.
He is a member of the Executive Session on Community Corrections which is a joint project of Harvard University’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.
A previous offensive line coach for Shippensburg University, Wetzel earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from Bloomsburg University and has done master's level course work in applied psychology at Penn State University. He is a member of the American Correctional Association, ASCA, NABCJ and is past president of the Pennsylvania County Corrections Association.
Wetzel served as treasurer of the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority; is a founding member of St. Seraphim Homeless Shelter; a member of the Pennsylvania Forensics Inter-Agency Task-Force; a founding core team member of Brother 2 Brother mentoring initiative; was part-time instructor of an evening truancy school and ethics panel speaker for Leadership Franklin County.
He lives with his wife, Theresa, and their four daughters.