U.S. AG Barr names new chief for troubled prison system

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday announced a new director for the U.S. government’s prison system, seeking to impose stability on an agency that has been under scrutiny since the August suicide of financier Jeffrey Epstein in a New York City jail.

Barr said he would appoint Michael Carvajal as director of the Bureau of Prisons, which has struggled with staffing shortages, violence, tight budgets and other problems.

Over the past year, the Bureau of Prisons has granted early release to thousands of prisoners under the First Step Act and prepared to resume executions after a 16-year hiatus.

Carvajal replaces Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, a veteran administrator who was brought in to run the system on a temporary basis as part of a staff shakeup that followed Epstein’s suicide.

The financier’s death, while he was held on sex-trafficking charges, prompted multiple investigations and highlighted shortcomings in the system. Two officers were charged with falsifying records to cover up their failure to monitor him.

Carvajal has risen through the ranks of the prison system since he was hired as a corrections officer in 1992. Since 2018 he has served as assistant director for correctional programs, overseeing security and emergency planning and sentence computation, among other duties.

The federal system oversees 175,000 inmates, down 20% from its 2013 peak but still more than double the size of the inmate population 30 years ago.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Richard Chang)