Matt Cate, who oversaw a dramatic, court-ordered reduction of California's prison population as secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, is resigning, the Brown administration confirmed this afternoon.
Cate will become executive director of the California State Association of Counties.
Cate was instrumental in the controversial shifting of responsibility for newly convicted, low-level offenders from prisons to county control last year, helping Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, implement the shift.
Cate announced in April what he called a "massive change" in the prison system, closing one prison and abandoning most of a $6 billion prison construction plan in a bid to improve prison conditions and get the prison system out from under oversight of the federal courts.
California's prison population has declined by more than 20,000 inmates since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that California must reduce the number of inmates in its overcrowded system.
Cate was appointed secretary of CDCR by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, in 2008. He leaves after a period of intense cost-cutting within the state prison system.
"I am grateful to Governor Brown for giving me the opportunity to serve as secretary during the first two years of his administration," Cate said in a prepared statement. "It has been a time of tremendous progress with the successful launch of public safety realignment, and simultaneous reductions in prison population, recidivism, and prison spending."
Cate was the state's inspector general for four years before becoming secretary of CDCR. He previously worked as a deputy attorney general at the California Department of Justice and as a deputy district attorney in Sacramento County.
"While I will miss working with the excellent staff at CDCR, I could not be more proud of our accomplishments over the years," Cate said in a prepared statement. "In addition to realignment and the accompanying reforms, we have successfully terminated five class-action lawsuits, overhauled the juvenile justice system; improved CDCR's rehabilitative programs, and are implementing a legislatively approved plan that will further these reforms and reduce over-all prison costs. The strong team of professionals at CDCR I leave behind will continue to help propel California towards being a national leader in corrections."
Cate's last day with the state will be Nov. 11.
PHOTO CREDIT: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matt Cate in his office in Sacramento in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton