Kentucky Department of Corrections Commissioner Rodney Ballard has resigned after a little more than a year on the job.
A statement from Justice and Public Safety Cabinet spokesman Mike Wynn said Ballard resigned to “pursue a private sector venture.”
“We thank him for his service and will immediately begin our search for a permanent replacement,” Wynn said.
Deputy Commissioner Jim Erwin will oversee operations while the agency searches for a replacement, Wynn said.
Ballard began serving as commissioner in March last year, replacing LaDonna Thompson who had served since 2008.
Ballard has a long career in law enforcement — he worked as a state police officer and ran Lexington’s Division of Community Corrections between 2012 and 2016. He also served as a deputy commissioner in the Department of Corrections.
His resignation comes amid overcrowding in state prisons and county jails across the state.
Last summer, the state reported that over a third of state inmates are housed in county jails. At the time, 26 of the state’s 128 county jails had populations over 140 percent capacity.
In recent years, the DOC received scrutiny and criticism after WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting detailed abuses, substandard health care and lax monitoring in the state’s jails.
KyCIR found that more than 150 inmates died in Kentucky jails from 2009 through mid-2015, and more than 40 percent of those deaths had ambiguous causes listed in state records.