WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Friday he plans to hold an oversight hearing on the crisis-plagued Federal Bureau of Prisons, after The Associated Press reported the agency is keeping its beleaguered former director in office. payroll as an adviser to his successor.
Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, who called for the firing of Michael Carvajal last November amidst myriad failures, told the AP in a statement that he was appalled by continued misconduct within the agency and its unwillingness to to completely cut ties with the former director.
Carvajal tendered his resignation in January but remained in charge of the Bureau of Prisons until the new director, Colette Peters, he was sworn in on tuesday after a long search process.
On Thursday, the AP reported that Carvajal stays until the end of the month as a senior adviser to Peters, the former director of the Oregon state prison system.
After speaking with Peters this week, Durbin said he is “hopeful for serious reforms at the BOP,” but it’s time to put Carvajal’s failed leadership behind him.
“It’s no secret that the Bureau of Prisons has been plagued with misconduct,” Durbin said, pointing to his calls for Carvajal’s removal last fall. “It is time to put the scandals and mismanagement of the Carvajal era in the past and focus on fixing this broken institution.”
“That is why, in addition to my commitment to working with the new BOP leadership, I plan to hold a BOP oversight hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee when we return from the statewide work period in August,” Durbin said.
Durbin did not provide a date for the hearing or say what witnesses might be called or topics discussed. The Senate returns from its August recess after Labor Day.
Peters vowed to reform the federal agency, which was plagued by myriad problems during Carvajal’s two years in charge. He has promised greater transparency and accountability for the Bureau of Prisons, the largest component of the Justice Department with a budget of more than $8 billion.
Carvajal, a holdover from the Trump administration, tendered his resignation on January 5 amid growing scrutiny of his leadership in the wake of an AP report that uncovered widespread problems at the Bureau of Prisons, including Rampant sexual assault at a California women’s prisonwidespread staff criminal conduct, dozens of leaksdeaths and Staffing Issues Hampering Emergency Responses.
durbin demanded the dismissal of Carvajal last November after the AP revealed that more than 100 Bureau of Prisons workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since the beginning of 2019. Durbin doubled down on his call for Carvajal’s removal in a Senate speech last December.
“From day one, Director Carvajal has shown no intention of reforming the institution,” Durbin said. “For years, the Bureau of Prisons has been plagued by corruption, chronic understaffing and misconduct by high-ranking officials.”
By then, Carvajal was already on the bench. Biden administration officials discussed in the spring of 2021 whether to remove Carvajal, after the AP reported that widespread correctional officer vacancies were forcing prisons to expand the use of cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to protect to inmates.
In one of his final acts as director, Carvajal clashed with senators at a hearing last week when he refused to accept responsibility for a culture of corruption and misconduct that has plagued his agency for years.
Carvajal, testifying before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, insisted that his subordinates had protected him from trouble. But it had been copied into emails, and some of the problems were detailed in reports generated by agency headquarters.
Carvajal blamed the size and structure of the Bureau of Prisons for its ignorance on issues such as inmate suicides, sexual abuse and the free flow of drugs, weapons and other contraband.
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