Justice Dept. to Seek Stiffer Sentences in Prisoner Abuse Cases

Ms. Peters, a former director of the Oregon Department of Corrections who was appointed to her current post this summer, replaced Michael Carvajal, a career corrections officer criticized for his reluctance to hold corrections officers accountable. She is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, where she is expected to discuss some of the changes the department will propose.

Ms. Monaco said she selected Ms. Peters, in part, because she once served as the inspector general of the Oregon prison system, which made her more inclined to examine, rather than simply run, the federal bureau of prisons. .

“Look, she is a former IG – she takes the importance of accountability in the prison system very, very seriously,” said Ms. Monaco. “It is a new leadership that is focused on accountability and reform.”

Nonetheless, Ms. Peters inherits an agency that has suffered from chronic underfunding and acute labor shortages that have often left federal prisons competing against better-funded state and local systems for a relatively small pool of workers. veteran and qualified prison inmates.

Mr. Carvajal, a former department official who began his career in 1992 as a corrections officer in Texas, was selected to lead the office in February 2020 by then-Attorney General William P. Barr. Carvajal took office just as the coronavirus was beginning to sweep through the country’s prisons, drawing criticism from lawmakers of both parties.

But the system was in crisis long before his term. In 2019, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee found that widespread misconduct in the federal prison system was routinely tolerated and covered up or ignored, even among top officials. The report also found that a permissive environment often led to lower-ranking employees being subjected to abuse, including sexual harassment and assault, by inmates and staff members.

That report followed a 2018 investigation by The New York Times that documented the harsh treatment suffered by female employees and a pattern of retaliation, professional sabotage and terminations faced by whistleblowers.