Home International News Oregon Prison Chief Leads Federal Prisons Job

Oregon Prison Chief Leads Federal Prisons Job

WASHINGTON (AP) — Colette Peters, the director of the Oregon prison system, has now emerged as the leading candidate to lead the federal prison system, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Peters, who has headed the state’s corrections department since 2012, tops the list of candidates to replace Bureau of Prisons director Michael Carvajal, who resigned in January but said he would stay on until a successor is found. had been appointed, the person said.

She would be the eleventh person to lead the Bureau of Prisons since its inception more than 90 years ago, and only the second director with no previous experience at the Bureau of Prisons, the largest in the Department of Justice. While many Bureau of Prisons officials applied for the position, the Biden administration was looking for someone to focus on reforming an agency that has had cultural problems for decades.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has led the search for Carvajal’s replacement. The leadership change comes in the wake of AP reporting that has revealed widespread issues at the agency, including sexual abuse by correctional officers and critically low staffing levels that have hampered emergency responses.

The person was not authorized to discuss details of the job search and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Peters did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment. The development was first reported by the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

As the director of the Oregon prison system, Peters is responsible for approximately 4,700 employees in a $2 billion agency. There are approximately 14,700 inmates in the state’s 14 prisons. The state’s corrections department has also touted its role in the state’s efforts to reduce the prison population and reduce recidivism.

Peters has a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Colorado at Denver and a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Oregon’s prison system, like many in the US, has had a spate of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and Peters’s office has been criticized for not doing enough to respond to the pandemic behind bars. In Oregon, 46 people in Department of Corrections custody have so far died after testing positive for COVID-19, and more than 5,400 people have tested positive for the virus while in custody.

In 2020, Peters publicly apologized for the death of an inmate when the state prison system agreed to pay a record $2.75 million to the family of the man who died of the flu. The settlement came nine months after Michael Barton’s family filed a $15 million wrongful death lawsuit accusing prison staff of failing to treat the 54-year-old man for the flu and then concealing his flu-related death.

The Bureau of Prisons has similarly faced criticism over the explosion of COVID-19 in the country’s 122 federal prisons. Carvajal, 54, was appointed director of the Federal Prisons Bureau by then Attorney General William Barr in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began to rage in federal prisons across the country, infecting tens of thousands of inmates with the virus. virus and resulting in 295 deaths.

Carvajal’s tumultuous tenure as director, an agency insider who started as a correctional officer and worked his way up the ranks, has included a botched response to the pandemic, widespread criminal activity among employees, prisoner deaths and dozens of escapes.

Carvajal also oversaw an unprecedented series of federal executions in the waning months of the Trump presidency that were so mismanaged that they became super-spreading viruses.

The AP’s reporting unearthing these issues forced Congress to investigate and sparked more calls from lawmakers for Carvajal to resign or be fired by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Carvajal “failed to address the mounting crises in our nation’s federal prison system, including the failure to fully implement the historic First Step Act,” a bipartisan criminal justice measure passed during the Trump administration intended to improve prison programs and reduce inequalities in sentencing.

Biden administration officials were debating whether or not to remove Carvajal in the spring of 2021 after the AP reported widespread correctional officer job opportunities forced prisons to use cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to train inmates. to expand monitoring.

The Bureau of Prisons is the only Justice Department agency whose director is not subject to Senate confirmation. Currently, the Attorney General can simply appoint anyone to the position.

A bill introduced in Congress days after Carvajal’s resignation would require Senate confirmation for future bureau directors — putting them under the same level of scrutiny as the leaders of the FBI and other federal agencies — but until so far, the measure has not yet got off the ground for a vote.

Others considered for the job were Gary Mohr, the former director of Ohio’s prison system. While many had pushed Mohr for the position, he never formally applied and is no longer in the running.

On Twitter, follow Michael Balsamo at twitter.com/mikebalsamo1 and Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak. Read more of AP’s reporting on federal prisons at apnews.com and send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/

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