When Oregon corrections director Colette Peters begins as head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Aug. 2, she will become only the second director in the agency’s history with no prior experience in the federal system. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who led the search for the new director, had been looking for someone who was focused on reforming an agency that has had cultural issues for decades, the Associated Press reports. Monaco told AP she sought “somebody who’s got executive experience managing a corrections operation, but someone who’s got real experience and credibility, quite frankly, as a reformer ... “I know we’ve achieved that with Colette Peters.” Peters was selected from about 60 candidates. The Justice Department had reached out to a variety of organizations before posting the job, asking advocates and others what they wanted to see in a new director.
Peters praised the values and mission of the Bureau of Prisons, pointing to the need for correctional systems to prioritize “the principles of normalcy and humanity” and vowed to put the wellness of officers at the top of her priority list. Peters didn’t directly address whether she has a plan to fix the slew of problems at the agency, including sexual abuse by correctional officers, rampant criminal conduct by staff, dozens of escapes, deaths and critically low staffing levels that have hampered responses to emergencies. “What I can tell you is that corrections is a complex environment,” she said. “It is an environment filled with humans. We have humans overseeing humans. And with that comes opportunity for error. And that comes with opportunity for accountability.” Monaco said the prisons bureau has "a dual mission, and it’s equal parts, fully equal parts: safe, secure, humane detention and a focus on and responsibility to prepare people to reenter.”