Durbin calls on Garland to sack director of federal prisons
Washington — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday demanded that Attorney General Merrick Garland fire the director of the embattled Federal Bureau of Prisons after an Associated Press investigation detailing gross misconduct involving corrections officers.
Senator Dick Durbin’s request came two days after the Associated Press revealed that more than 100 Bureau of Prisons workers have been arrested, convicted, or sentenced for crimes since the beginning of 2019. The Associated Press investigation also found that the agency turned a blind eye to employees accused of misconduct and failed to Stop officers who have been arrested for crimes.
Durbin specifically targeted director Michael Carvajal, who has been at the center of the agency’s myriad crises. Under Carvajal’s leadership, the agency has seen several crises from the rampant spread of the coronavirus within prisons, the failed pandemic response to dozens of escapes and deaths, and extremely low staffing levels that have hampered the emergency response.
Carvajal was appointed by then Attorney General William Barr but Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco recently said she still had confidence in him despite many serious cases during his tenure. The Associated Press reported in June that top officials in the Biden administration were considering ousting him. He is one of the few left from the Trump administration.
“Director Carvajal was chosen by former Attorney General Bill Barr and oversaw a series of escalating crises, including the failure to protect BOP staff and prisoners from the COVID-19 pandemic, the failure to address chronic staffing shortages, and the failure to implement the landmark First Step Act,” he said. Durbin said in a statement, “It is time for Attorney General Garland to replace Director Carvajal with a reform-minded director who is not a product of Bob’s bureaucracy.”
Two-thirds of criminal cases against Department of Justice employees in recent years have involved federal prison workers, who make up less than a third of the department’s workforce. Of the 41 arrests this year, 28 were Palestinian bank employees or contractors. The FBI had only five. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives each had two.
The Associated Press investigation also showed how the Bureau of Prisons allowed a federal prison official in Mississippi, whose job was to investigate the misconduct of other employees, to remain in office after he was arrested on charges of stalking and harassment of fellow employees. This official was also allowed to continue the investigation of an employee he accused of committing a crime.
And last week, two inmates escaped from Bureau of Prisons custody, accounting for at least 36 escapes in the past 22 months.
“We have a new administration and a new opportunity to reform our criminal justice system,” Durbin said. “There is clearly a lot going wrong in our federal prisons, and we urgently need to fix them. This effort must begin with new leadership.”
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