Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher, who Gov. Scott Walker brought back to the agency to help deal with ongoing problems at a youth prison in northern Wisconsin, is retiring.

The guv’s office announced Deputy Secretary Cathy Jess, who started as a correctional officer more than 30 years ago, will lead the agency beginning June 11. She will be the first woman to serve as Corrections secretary since the agency became its own department in 1990.

Litscher, 73, originally served as Corrections secretary from 1999-2003. He also previously served in state government as secretary of Employment Relations from 1991-99 and executive secretary of the Higher Educational Aids Board from 1987-1990. Before coming back to Corrections in 2016, Litscher was the interim superintendent at the Cambria-Friesland School District.

Walker tapped him in 2016 to lead the agency amid the turmoil at the Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake youth prisons and ongoing staffing shortages at Corrections. Lawmakers earlier this year approved a plan to close the youth prisons and transition to regional facilities around the state.

Jess has been the deputy secretary since February 2016 after serving as administrator of the agency’s Division of Adult Institutions starting in 2011. She also was the warden at the Dodge Correctional Institution and the Wisconsin Women’s Correctional System.


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