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July 11, 2022

Colette Peters selected to lead federal Bureau of Prisons

Government officials who run prison and jail systems at the local, state and federal level will often have a huge impact not only on the lives of incarcerated persons, but also on broader criminal justice realities. In the federal system, thanks especially to the FIRST STEP Act's emphasis on an array of new prison-focused reforms, the head of the Bureau of Prisons is now an especially important position. As this new New York Times article details, the BOP is about to have a new leader:

Colette S. Peters, the longtime director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, has been tapped to lead the chronically mismanaged and understaffed federal Bureau of Prisons, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The Justice Department, which oversees the bureau, is expected to announce her appointment this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday.  The bureau, a sprawling network of 122 facilities with an annual budget of around $10 billion, houses about 158,000 inmates.

The appointment comes after a long search to replace the current director, Michael Carvajal, who announced his intention to retire in January, under pressure from Senate Democrats who questioned his management.

Ms. Peters, who began her career as an administrator in Oregon’s juvenile justice system, rose to national prominence after instituting changes in the state’s 14-facility system to improve the health and treatment of its 15,000 inmates. She was considered the favored candidate for a job seen as one of the Justice Department’s most demanding and thankless assignments.

The federal prisons bureau has long been plagued by health and safety problems, physical and sexual abuse, corruption and turnover in the top management ranks.  Staffing issues, exacerbated by the pandemic, have resulted in a huge shortage of prison guards and health personnel, according to an investigation by The Associated Press last year, which uncovered a wide array of other shortcomings....

Under the Trump administration, the bureau was the subject of turf battles and ideological disagreements, even as the White House negotiated the bipartisan criminal justice legislation known as the First Step Act.  The measure was devised to reduce the size of the federal prison system and to provide lower-level offenders with greater access to alternatives to incarceration.

July 11, 2022 at 09:56 PM | Permalink

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