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Senators Grill BOP Chief—Then Say They’ll Toss Her More Money

A little over a year after becoming director of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Colette Peters faced questions on September 13, 2023, from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who hammered her about transparency, unfulfilled promises and missing answers to questions submitted a year ago—only then to signal their intent to lavish more funds on the troubled prison system.

A reformer who previously helmed Oregon’s state prison system, Peters took bipartisan heat from senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Pushing back, she highlighted steps taken to fix the agency: overhauling problematic prisons, beefing up the internal affairs office that investigates employee misconduct and changing the agency’s mission to emphasize core values centered on accountability, integrity, respect, and compassion.

But senators complained that Peters had not made good on a promise made when taking the job in August 2022—to be candid about staffing shortages, chronic violence, escapes, prisoner deaths and staff misconduct. Sen. Jon Ossoff, (D-Ga.) warned, “You’ve now been in the post for about a year and Congress expects results.”

Cotton and Lee reminded Peters that they had waited a year for answers to written follow-up questions sent after her initial appearance in September 2022. Calling the information critical to understanding BOP operations, the two Republicans pressed Peters for a deadline when they could expect a reply. She declined to give one, blaming the delay and uncertainty on an ongoing review being conducted by BOP’s parent agency, the federal Department of Justice.

Despite Peters’ incomplete testimony, Durbin said senators left the hearing in agreement that BOP “needed significantly more funding” for staffing and infrastructure, including $20 billion worth of deferred maintenance. The agency consumes an $8 billion annual budget to incarcerate 157,000 people—almost $51,000 each—in 122 BOP prisons, hospitals and camps.  


Source: AP News

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