Governor Hutchinson today announced he’d chosen Solomon Graves as new director of the state Department of Corrections, a position that carries the title of secretary in the governor’s cabinet. The appointment must be approved by the state Board of Corrections.

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He will succeed Wendy Kelley, who’d earlier announced her retirement at the end of this month. He had been chief of staff at the department, which includes a community corrections division.

Kelley, a lawyer, had headed the department since 2015 after joining the department in 2006. She cited family reasons for a decision to step down.

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The new director faces the usual problems, a growing prison population and tight state budget, all exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected hundreds of inmates and staff in several prison units. A lawsuit challenges health conditions in the prisons and advocates for justice reform have pressed for release of non-violent prisoners.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from UA Little Rock and master’s from Webster University.

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He was a parole board administrator for almost 10 years and also served once as information officer for the corrections department.