Gary Mohr, former director of the Ohio state prison system has emerged as a leading contender to run the crisis-plagued federal Bureau of Prisons, reports the Associated Press. Mohr, who has worked in the private prison industry, is among those at the top of the list to replace Michael Carvajal, who submitted his resignation in January but is staying on until a successor is named. Mohr said he was “shocked to see an article describing me as a top contender” for the position and denied that he had applied or been interviewed. Mohr could become 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 AP has reported on widespread problems at the agency, including sexual abuse by correctional officers and low staffing levels that have hampered responses to emergencies.
Mohr has spent nearly 50 years in corrections, starting as a teacher in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which he led from 2011 to 2018. He has served as president of the American Correctional Association. Mohr has been a prison warden and a consultant and managing director for CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, an owner and operator of private prisons. As head of Ohio’s prison system, Mohr oversaw about 12,000 employees and 50,000 inmates at 28 facilities. The Bureau of Prisons is budgeted for 37,500 employees, operates 122 facilities and has 157,000 inmates. In Ohio, Mohr made reducing the state’s prison population a priority and led efforts to reduce the number of first-time, nonviolent offenders behind bars. He managed to trim it by about 1,000. Carvajal, 54, was appointed Bureau of Prisons director in February 2020 by then-Attorney General William Barr, just before the COVID-19 pandemic raged in federal prisons nationwide, leaving tens of thousands of inmates infected and resulting in 295 deaths.