Incoming Arkansas governor picks senior department official to head Arkansas' prison system

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Incoming Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday promoted the Arkansas Department of Correction's chief deputy director to head the agency that operates the state's prison system.

Hutchinson, a Republican who will be sworn in on Jan. 13, named Wendy Kelley as the department's new director. Kelley will replace interim Director Larry Norris.

"Her leadership capabilities, in addition to the experience and knowledge she possesses having worked at ADC - not to mention the years she's spent working alongside the department - make her the ideal choice for this time of change and challenge within the Department of Correction, and I know she will lead the Department with skill and integrity," Hutchinson said in a prepared statement.

Kelley previously served as the department's deputy director for health and correctional programs from 2006 to 2013, and the department was one of her clients during her time at the attorney general's office. She was named chief deputy director last year.

Kelley is taking over the department with prison funding looming as a major issue for lawmakers when they convene next week for this year's session. Correction officials have said a new prison is needed to ease the overcrowding of state inmates at local jails, but lawmakers have balked at a car tag fee increase that's been floated as a way to pay for the $100 million facility.

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