DOJ names Oregon official to head sprawling, embattled federal prison system

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department has tapped the longtime chief of the Oregon Department of Corrections to lead the sprawling federal prison system.


Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday described Colette Peters as “uniquely qualified" to manage the federal Bureau of Prisons after overseeing operations at the 14,700-inmate system in Oregon for the past decade.


Peters was the first woman to serve as director of the Oregon prison system and is chairperson of the National Institute of Corrections Advisory Board.


“Colette Peters has a proven track record as a visionary leader in the field of corrections and public safety,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said. “With her experience and judgment, she is the right leader for BOP and its dual mission of providing both safe detention and meaningful preparation for those in custody reentering society. I look forward to working with her.”


Peters takes over a vastly larger department housing more than 157,000 inmates across 122 facilities, long plagued by staffing shortages, security lapses, and ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.


The appointment of Peters comes after Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal announced his retirement earlier this year.

Carvajal, who had been serving as an assistant director, was elevated to the top spot in early 2020 to succeed Kathleen Hawk Sawyer. She had been appointed by then-Attorney General William Barr to lead the agency after accused child-sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell.

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