Kathleen Allison

California Governor Gavin Newsom has named Kathleen Allison the new Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, effective October 1.

Allison will replace Ralph Diaz, who is retiring after 30 years with the CDCR. The governor praised Diaz for overseeing “incredible transformation as well as unparalleled challenges” and said he had “truly met the moment.”

Protesters calling for widespread inmate releases to help slow the spread of the coronavirus have recently held vigils outside the homes of both Diaz and Newsom.

Newsom said, in a statement, that Diaz had “worked tirelessly” to ease prison virus outbreaks, noting the number of infections is now at its lowest level since late May. The state has also sped the releases of more than 9,000 inmates who were nearing the end of their sentences as one response to the pandemic. It also halted admissions from county jails, with the combination lowering the prison population to levels not seen in 30 years.

Allison will be the third woman to lead the department, but the first to be designated “secretary” instead of “director.” She began with the department in 1987 as a medical technician assistant, rising to warden, director of adult prisons and undersecretary of operations.