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Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections Secretary is stepping down

Retirement takes effect March 8

Secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Kevin Carr shakes hands with a graduate Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wis. (Angela Major/WPR)

The Secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections is stepping down. 

Secretary Kevin Carr will retire effective March 8, the governor’s office announced Friday afternoon.

Gov. Tony Evers first appointed Carr to the position overseeing Wisconsin’s prison and community supervision system in late 2018.

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A news release from the governor’s office credits Carr with expanding Wisconsin’s early release program and with increasing educational opportunities for incarcerated people.

The governor expects to announce a replacement for Carr in coming weeks, the release says.

In the meantime, Deputy Secretary Jared Hoy and Assistant Deputy Secretary Melissa Roberts will the lead the department, a spokesperson said.

In a statement from the state DOC, Carr said he couldn’t have been prouder to have worked “with some of the finest public servants in the country” during what he described as “very difficult conditions.”

“I have truly been inspired and impressed by the dedication and professionalism of everyone at the DOC,” Carr said.

Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections is facing multiple lawsuits over conditions at two maximum security prisons during months-long lockdowns.

The lockdowns come amid a shortage of correctional officers, and officials say they’ve imposed restrictions on inmates’ activities, such as visitation and leisure time, to maintain security. 

The current vacancy rate for correctional officers and sergeants across Wisconsin’s prison system is about 21 percent, the department said Friday. That’s down from 35 percent in mid-2023.

During a conversation with WPR last month following a graduation ceremony for newly-certified correctional officers, Carr credited pay raises for spiking interest in correctional officer jobs. Those raises took effect July 1 as part of the two-year budget approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor.