Wednesday, Governor Riley announced the appointment of 51-year-old Donald Campbell of Nashville to the $91,000 a year job.
Campbell started working in Tennessee's prison system in 1977 as a guard.
He rose through the ranks and served as commissioner from 1995 until last week.
Campbell takes over an Alabama prison system that is under court orders to alleviate overcrowding in men and women's prisons.
He says Alabama's problems are nothing new to him because Tennessee's prisons dealt with the same issues in the late 1980's and early 1990's.
Tennessee uses private prisons to house about 4,500 of its inmates, something Campbell and Riley say they plan to consider in Alabama.
Campbell says he's not in favor of privatizing existing prisons, but would like to consider "adding" privately run prisons to provide new space.