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Aug. 19, 2022

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Oregon prison chief in lead for federal job

Peters has run the state’s corrections agency since 2012

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WASHINGTON — Colette Peters, the director of Oregon’s prison system, has emerged as the leading contender to run the federal prison system, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Peters, who has run the state’s corrections department since 2012, is at the top of the list of candidates to replace Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal, who submitted his resignation in January but said he would stay on until a successor was named, the person said.

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

Peters would be the 11th person to lead the Bureau of Prisons since its founding more than 90 years ago, and only the second director with no prior experience at the agency, the Justice Department’s largest. While many officials from inside the Bureau of Prisons applied for the post, the Biden administration was looking for someone who was focused on reforming an agency that has had cultural issues for decades.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has been leading the search for Carvajal’s replacement.

The leadership change comes in the wake of AP reporting that has uncovered widespread problems at the agency, including sexual abuse by correctional officers and critically low staffing levels that have hampered responses to emergencies.

The development was first reported by the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

As director of Oregon’s prison system, Peters is responsible for about 4,700 employees in an agency with a $2 billion budget. There are about 14,700 inmates in the state’s 14 prisons. The state corrections department has also touted her 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 Denver and a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Oregon’s prison system, like many in the U.S., had a wave of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and Peters’ agency has been criticized for not doing enough to respond to the pandemic behind bars. In Oregon, 46 people in the Department of Corrections’ custody have 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 an inmate’s death as the state prison system agreed to pay a record $2.75 million to the family of the man, who had died from 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 covering up his flu-related death.

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