President Joe Biden moved rapidly following his inauguration to start shifting federal inmates out of privately run prisons, where complaints of abuses abound. Biden also encouraged reductions in overcrowded state and local prisons by allowing the use of coronavirus relief dollars to free inmates.
Lisa McCormick, a New Jersey woman who ran for US Senate in 2018, said Biden is overlooking the federal Bureau of Prisons, an agency rife with corruption that is entirely under the control of Biden and his Justice Department.
“After Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin called for the firing of BOP Director Michael Carvajal, it took the White House almost a year to get Colette S. Peters confirmed as his replacement,” said McCormick, who noted that Governor Phil Murphy has shown similar disinterest in the plight of women raped and otherwise sexually abused while incarcerated. “Given all the reasons for getting rid of Carvajal, Biden still dragged his feet on the leftover Trump administration appointee.”
Carvajal’s resignation was an opportunity to install new leadership but it took until July 12, 2022, for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to select Colette S. Peters to serve as his replacement.
“It seems that the administration wanted to rack up political points instead of really fixing the incredible injustices that are known to exist in America’s criminal justice system,” said McCormick, who noted Biden’s inaction on marijuana legalization, persecution of journalists, and opposition to fairness in a multitude of areas.
“I have a real problem with President Joe Biden’s tolerance for the slow-going Attorney General who has allowed these problems to linger, failed to indict the disgraced former President, and disappointed America on a while range of important issues,” said McCormick.
Carvajal, who began his career as a prison correctional officer in Texas in 1992, rose to the agency’s top post in February 2020 when he was appointed by the Trump administration’s attorney general, William P. Barr.
More than 100 federal prison workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019, including a warden indicted for sexual abuse, an associate warden charged with murder, guards taking cash to smuggle drugs and weapons, and supervisors stealing property such as tires and tractors.
Three brave women came forward to testify to Congressional leaders about the horrific and repeated sexual abuse they suffered while incarcerated in federal prisons, exposing part of the malign practices that are a routine part of America’s system of institutional injustice.
The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs held a hearing on the sexual abuse of Female Inmates in Federal Prisons on December 13, 2022.
The emotional testimonies provided a personal addition to the committee’s report about sexual abuse of female prisoners.
Government Accountability Project client, Linda De La Rosa, was one of the women who testified and shared her statement. While being held at a minimal security prison, Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Lexington, Kentucky, she experienced repeated assaults from a corrections officer making her life “a living hell.”
Investigators knew he was a sexual predator and he continued to work at the facility during the investigation before his arrest and plead.
De La Rosa also explained that she feared retaliation and punishment if she spoke up about her attacker.
The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) currently has a backlog of more than 8,000 complaints of misconduct that will take more than two years to review, according to BOP Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) Chief Beth Reese.
BOP OIA opened more than 5,000 misconduct cases involving 6,593 of the bureau’s 37,000 employees.
More than 1,100 of those cases included sexual abuse or sexual harassment of women in prison.
Two-thirds of the criminal cases against Justice Department personnel have involved federal prison workers, who comprise less than one-third of the Attorney General’s workforce.
The agency is responsible for the custody and care of 160,030 federal inmates.
“The hearing exposed in shocking detail federal prison staff sexually abusing defenseless inmates,” said David Seide, an attorney from the Government Accountability Project. “It can and must be stopped. We thank our client, Linda De La Rosa, and the other brave whistleblower-victims who came forward yesterday to recount their personal horrors to Congress and the American people. Government Accountability Project is here to help.”
De La Rosa is also represented by Bryan E. Busch of Busch Mills & Slomka LLP.
According to a February 2020 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, research suggests that at least 50 percent of women entering prison report that they experienced physical and/or sexual abuse before their incarceration.
“Michael’s career has been defined by his commitment to the bureau, to its mission, and to the people we all serve. I am extremely appreciative of Michael’s decades of public service, most recently at the helm of one of the most complex missions in the federal government,”
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland praised BOP Director Michael Carvajal when the jailor retired a year ago, even after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin called for the official’s firing based on a report that more than 100 federal prison employees have been arrested or convicted of crimes since 2019.
With Carvajal running the agency since the beginning of the pandemic, about one in three inmates tested positive for the coronavirus, a rate nearly double that of the general U.S. population. Seven bureau employees and 309 inmates suffered deaths attributed to COVID-19 disease.
Despite the failure to contain the virus and vast numbers of sex scandals, Garland asked Carvajal to stay in the job and it took more than nine months to replace the Trump appointee because the Biden administration is not concerned about the victims of injustice as it is about putting out press releases with claims of accomplishment.