Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Resigning After Report Reveals Agency Is ‘Hotbed of Abuse’

Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Resigning After Report Reveals Agency Is ‘Hotbed of Abuse’
A guard tower flanks the sign at the entrance to the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., on March 17, 2003. (Michael Conroy/AP Photo)
Katabella Roberts

The director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has resigned from his job after it was revealed that more than 100 workers at the correctional agency have been arrested, convicted, or sentenced for crimes since 2019.

Michael Carvajal this week said he informed Attorney General Merrick Garland that he would be leaving the role. However, Carvajal will stay on for an interim period until a replacement is found; it’s unclear how long that process might take.

“We are very appreciative of Director Carvajal’s service to the department over the last three decades,” Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement. “His operational experience and intimate knowledge of the Bureau of Prisons—the department’s largest component—helped steer it during critical times, including during this historic pandemic.”

DOJ officials didn’t respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment on the departure by press time.

Carvajal began his career with the bureau in 1992 as a correctional officer at Federal Correctional Institution, Three Rivers, in Texas, before working his way up to positions of leadership. He served as the assistant director for the Correctional Programs Division just before his appointment as BOP director on Feb. 25, 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak began.

Carvajal has faced heavy criticism regarding his leadership of the agency amid the pandemic, which saw the tightly packed and often overcrowded prisons becoming hotspots and super-spreader areas for the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that inmates in jails and prisons are at “higher risk” of getting COVID-19 because of the inability to socially distance.
An Associated Press report in November 2021 also revealed that the federal prison agency, which has an annual budget of nearly $8 billion, had seemingly ignored employee misconduct and is a “hotbed of abuse, graft and corruption.”

Cases included a warden indicted for sexual abuse, an associate warden charged with murder, and guards taking cash to smuggle in drugs, weapons, and other things, according to the report.

The report also noted that two-thirds of the criminal cases against Justice Department staff in recent years have involved federal prison workers, even as they account for less than a third of the DOJ’s workforce.

In 2021, 28 of the 41 arrests made were of BOP employees or contractors, the report said, while five were from the FBI. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives each had two staff members arrested.

The DOJ, in a statement to The Associated Press at the time, said it “will not tolerate staff misconduct, particularly criminal misconduct” and is “committed to holding accountable any employee who abuses a position of trust, which we have demonstrated through federal criminal prosecutions and other means.”

However, the report’s findings led to increased criticism from officials over Carvajal’s handling of the job, while lawmakers, including the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called for his resignation.

Following the AP report in November, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) had urged Garland to remove Carvajal from the role for a string of reasons, including the director’s failure “to protect BOP staff and inmates from the COVID-19 pandemic and failing to address chronic understaffing.”

“It is past time for Attorney General Garland to replace Director Carvajal with a reform-minded director who is not a product of the BOP bureaucracy,” Durbin said. "We have a new administration and a new opportunity to reform our criminal justice system. It’s clear that there is much going wrong in our federal prisons, and we urgently need to fix it. That effort must start with new leadership.”
Carvajal defended his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in prisons during an April 2020 interview with CNN.

“I don’t think anybody was ready for this COVID, so we’re dealing with it just as well as anybody else, and I'd be proud to say we’re doing pretty good,” he said. “It’s easy to critique those hot spots, but we don’t control that,” he said. “We can only control the people inside of our institutions, and we put things in place to do that.”