Virginia Parole Board Chairman Chadwick Dotson will become director of the Department of Corrections, Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Monday, Richmond Times Dispatch reports. The prison agency’s current director, Harold Clarke, plans to leave the post in early September. Patricia West, a former judge who served as a member of the State Corporation Commission, director of juvenile justice and secretary of public safety under Gov. George Allen, and as chief deputy attorney general under Ken Cuccinelli, will become chair of the parole board. “I will work every day to support DOC’s front-line personnel ... and will focus efforts on addressing the ongoing staffing shortages faced by corrections systems across the country,” said Dotson, a former Wise County judge and a former dean of students at the Appalachian School of Law.
Virginia’s corrections department houses some 25,000 inmates in its prisons, and is responsible for probation officers and a range of alternatives to incarceration, as well as for programs to help inmates return to society when they have served their sentences. Clarke was named director of the department by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2010 and was reappointed by Democratic governors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam. Under his watch, for four of the past seven years, Virginia has seen the lowest rate in the nation of former inmates returning to prison on new convictions. In the other three years, the state had the second-lowest recidivism rate. Clarke began his corrections career in Nebraska and became that state’s director of corrections in 1990. He was appointed secretary of the Washington State Department of Corrections in 2005 and, in 2007, became commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. “After 49 years, it’s time,” he said. “I’ve been a director of corrections since 1990, in four states without a break.”