Colette Peters, the director of Oregon prisons, has emerged as the leading contender to run the federal prison system, the Associated Press reports. AP earlier reported that former Ohio corrections director Gary Mohr was a likely appointee for the job. Peters, who has run Oregon's corrections department since 2012, is at the top of the list to replace Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Michael Carvajal, who submitted his resignation in January but is staying on until a successor is named. Peters would be the 11th person to lead the prison agency since its founding more than 90 years ago, and only the second with no prior experience at the agency, the Justice Department’s largest.
While many officials from inside the Bureau of Prisons applied for the job, the Biden administration was looking for someone who was focused on reforming an agency that has had cultural issues for decades. AP has reported on widespread problems at the agency, including sexual abuse by correctional officers and critically low staffing levels that have hampered responses to emergencies. Peters is responsible for 4,700 employees in an agency with a $2 billion budget. There are about 14,700 inmates in the state’s 14 prisons. Oregon’s prison system had a wave of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and Peters’ agency has been criticized for not doing enough to respond to the pandemic. In Oregon, 46 people in the Department of Corrections’ custody have so far died after testing positive for COVID-19, and more than 5,400 people have tested positive for the virus. Carvajal, 54, was appointed BOP director in February 2020 by then-Attorney General William Barr.