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July 13, 2022

Some news and notes regarding new director of the federal Bureau of Prisons

As first noted in this prior post, Colette Peters, who has served as Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections for more than a decade, this week was selected to lead the federal Bureau of Prisons by Attorney General Merrick Garland.  The official announcement from DOJ is at this link, and it reports that she "will assume her duties on Tuesday, August 2."  The announcement prompted some notable press releases and coverage.  For example:

From a press release from Senate Dick Durbin's office, this quote from Senator Durbin:

It’s no secret that BOP has been plagued by misconduct.  One investigation after another has revealed a culture of abuse, mismanagement, corruption, torture, and death that reaches to the highest levels.  In light of those reports, I called for former BOP Director Michael Carvajal’s resignation last November.  So it was welcome news when six weeks later, he announced his resignation.  I am hopeful that with Colette Peters, Attorney General Garland and Deputy Attorney General Monaco have chosen the right leader to clear out the bureaucratic rot and reform BOP.  It is a tall order, and I look forward to working with Ms. Peters to help her succeed in this new role.

From a press release from FAMM, this quote from FAMM President Kevin Ring:

Colette Peters is walking into a dumpster fire. From sexual violence and medical neglect to understaffing and years-long lockdowns, the BOP’s leadership has allowed a humanitarian crisis to develop on its watch. Families with incarcerated loved ones have been begging for change. During Caravajal’s tenure, the BOP has been a black box. When COVID began spreading in federal prisons and families’ fears were at their greatest, Carvajal and the BOP somehow became less transparent. The BOP’s opaqueness felt like cruelty. We hope the incoming secretary is prepared to make significant changes to a system badly in need of them.

The most thorough reporting I have seen regarding Peters' professional track record comes from this entry at Chris Geidner's substack LawDork.  I recommend the full entry, and here is a portion (with links from the original):

DOJ pointed to ODOC’s development of the “Oregon Way” under her leadership.  As ODOC describes it, the goal of the “Oregon Way” is to “improve employee health and wellness, and reduce the use of segregation, by transforming environments inside correctional facilities to be more normal and humane.”

Bobbin Singh, the executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, however, expressed significant concerns about the appointment given his experience with her work in Oregon — including in ongoing litigation.

“This appointment is an insult to all those incarcerated in Oregon who are fighting for their civil rights and dignity,” Singh told Law Dork on Tuesday.

Less than a month ago, his organization sent a new report to state lawmakers, detailing ongoing problems in the department. In the letter to lawmakers accompanying the report, which was provided to Law Dork, Singh wrote, “Despite a cascade of evidence revealing serious issues within the department, ODOC continues to put forward a misleading narrative that either ignores the issues entirely, profoundly sanitizes the facts, or wrongly shifts blame and responsibility away from itself.”

July 13, 2022 at 09:48 AM | Permalink


Our nationwide organization, Women Against Registry, advocates for the 2.5 million families of the 917,000 (men, women, and children as young as 8 and 10 in some states) required to register as sexual offenders as well as those in federal and state facilities.

That being said those incarcerated are many times the targets of others who see themselves as higher on the crime ranking scale.

We as a nation see the resolution to a problem as 'out of sight..out of mind' so we throw people away at record-breaking rates. Hence, being regarded as 'the incarceration nation' with 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's incarcerated. But, what is the root cause of the behavior?

It is our duty to begin preparing inmates the first day of their sentence for the day they are released. We have failed miserably! This is not the fault of a prison manager it is the fault of our federal and state legislators who pass more legislation to punish the masses instead of getting to the root cause. How does that even make sense?

I don't know either!

Posted by: Vicki Henry | Jul 14, 2022 7:23:27 AM

. . . considering that the Federal Bureau of Prisons is experiencing over 9,000 documented inmate misconduct reports every 30 days on average for the past 30+ years, the newly selected director has her hands full. By ignoring the increasing volume of inmate misconduct inside prisons, the federal prison agency will continue to have notorious episodes of bad publicity such as the murder of Whitey Bulger and the death of Jeffrey Epstein. Each of these situations multiply calls for change without any real change. By executive staff simply subduing the publicity there will be no change. Until the prisons system's philosophy such as, "they're in prison, what else do you want" changes, there will be no real change no matter what director is on the podium. When the archaic attitude of no genuine prevention of inmate misconduct is brought to light and demands for change are no longer simply a temporary news story, we will begin to see real change and not continue to only see the same "smoke and mirrors".

Posted by: Richard H. Noah | Jul 14, 2022 8:36:01 AM

Locking up people gets votes. And those locked up usually loose their right to vote, depending where you are. It is a perfect political tool. Most people will come back out into our communities and generally we will have done nothing while they are incarcerated to help them learn how to work for a better life. Which makes us all less safe. And yet politicians are happy to continue to put our communities at risk because accountability by staff and administrators in a prison doesn't get you votes. Only sound bites matter. It is heart breaking really. And Vicki Henry...I agree.

Posted by: Mp | Jul 14, 2022 9:41:08 AM

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