WASHINGTON – The former director of the Ohio prison system has become the main contender to manage the crisis-ridden federal prison bureau, three people familiar with the issue told the Associated Press.
Gary Moore, who also worked in private prisons, is at the top of the list of candidates to replace Prison Bureau Director Michael Carvajal, who resigned in January but said he would remain in office until a successor is named. , people said on Friday.
The final decision has not yet been made, and it is unclear when it will be announced, according to people who did not have the right to speak in public and did so on condition of anonymity. Following the publication of this story, Moore responded to an email requesting comment, which was sent to the consulting firm where he works. He said he was “shocked to see an article describing me as the main contender” for the post, and denied that he had applied or been interviewed.
People familiar with the case insisted on Saturday that Moore remains among those seriously considered for the post.
If elected, Moore will become the 11th person to head the Bureau of Prisons since its inception more than 90 years ago, and only the second director with no previous experience at the agency, the largest in the Ministry of Justice.
The change in leadership came after an AP report that revealed widespread problems in the agency, including sexual assault by correctional staff and critically low levels of staff that hinder emergency response.
Moore spent nearly 50 years working in correctional facilities, starting with a teacher in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the agency he ran from 2011 to 2018. After retiring, he served as president of the American Correctional Association, a nonprofit trade association. and the accreditation body.
Moore was also a prison warden and, between works in the Ohio system, was a consultant and head of CoreCivic, formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America, owner and operator of private prisons and prisons.
As head of the Ohio prison system, Moore oversaw more than 12,000 staff and about 50,000 inmates at 28 facilities. The prison bureau has a capacity of about 37,500 staff, manages 122 facilities and has about 157,000 inmates.
In Ohio, Moore has made reducing the number of inmates in the state a priority and has spearheaded efforts to reduce the number of nonviolent offenders imprisoned for the first time. During his retirement he managed to cut it by about 1,000 inmates, but after retirement, he said he was “extremely upset” he couldn’t do more.
Moore also oversaw 15 executions and dealt with various crises, including the suicide in prison in 2013 of the notorious female kidnapper in Cleveland Ariel Castro; TJ Lane’s short school shooter escape in 2014; and the murder of a prisoner in a van by another prisoner in 2017.
The union representing Ohio prison guards has often clashed with Moore, criticizing him and the agency for not doing enough to protect correctional staff and reduce violence.
The 54-year-old Carvajal was appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in February 2020 by then-Attorney General William Barr, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began raging in federal prisons across the country, leaving tens of thousands of prisoners infected with the virus. in 295 deaths.
An insider of the agency, who started as a correctional officer and made his way through the ranks, Carvajal was a tumultuous director. There has been a failed response to the pandemic, widespread criminal activity among staff, critically low staffing, which has hampered the response to emergencies, deaths of prisoners and dozens of escapes.
Carvajal also oversaw an unprecedented number of federal executions in the ensuing months of Trump’s presidency that were so poorly managed that they became events of super-spread of viruses.
AP reports exposing these concerns have prompted Congress to investigate and sparked growing calls from lawmakers for Carvajal to resign or be fired by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The chairman of the Senate Legal Committee, Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois, said Carvajal “failed to resolve the growing crises in our country’s federal prison system, including not fully implementing the landmark First Step Act,” a two-party criminal court. a measure taken during the Trump administration aimed at improving prison programs and reducing disparities in sentences.
Garland instructed Deputy Prosecutor Lisa Monaco to look for a replacement for Carvajal. Officials have gone far and wide to try to find candidates outside the typical profile of previous directors, even by posting an ad on LinkedIn.
While many Prison Bureau officials applied for the post, the Biden administration was looking for someone who would focus on reforming the agency, which has had problems with culture for decades.
Monaco personally conducted interviews and met with several candidates.
Representatives of the Biden administration discussed whether to remove Carvajal in the spring of 2021, after the AP reported that widespread vacancies for correctional officers are forcing prisons to expand the use of cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to protect prisoners.
The Prisons Bureau is the only agency of the Ministry of Justice whose director is not subject to Senate approval. Currently, the Attorney General can simply appoint someone to the post.
The bill, introduced in Congress a few days after Carvajal’s resignation, will require Senate approval for future bureau directors – subjecting them to the same level of scrutiny as FBI and other federal officials – but so far no action has been taken. to vote.
Associated Press reporter Andrew Welsh-Huggins of Columbus, Ohio, contributed to the report. ___
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