Top Democrat calls on Biden administration to fire the Trump-era head of federal prisons, citing inmate abuse and the death of Jeffrey Epstein

US federal prison camp in North Carolina.
A November 2021 investigation by the AP described the federal Bureau of Prisons as a "hotbed of abuse, graft and corruption."AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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  • Sen. Dick Durbin described a "series of stunning failures" at the Bureau of Prisons.

  • He cited failings that enabled Jeffrey Epstein to die by suicide.

  • Durbin reiterated a call for the Biden administration to fire Director Michael Carvajal.

A top-ranking Democrat in the Senate on Thursday called on the Biden administration to fire the head of federal prisons, a holdover from the Trump administration he accused of failing to address wrongdoing within the system.

Speaking Thursday on the floor of the Senate, Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois also cited the 2019 death by suicide of alleged sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. That facility was shut down earlier this year.

The current director of the Bureau of Prisons, Michael Carvajal, was appointed in February 2020 by then-Attorney General William Barr. Prior to his appointment, he served as the the bureau's assistant director for the correctional programs. Since taking charge, Durbin alleged that he "has shown no intention of reforming the institution."

There are currently more than 156,000 federal inmates, with over 134,000 currently in Bureau of Prisons custody. There were less than 25,000 people in federal prisons in 1980.

Critics charge that this larger population of detainees has not been provided greater protections from abuse at the hands of staff and other inmates. An April report from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics noted that, as of 2018, the bureau was experiencing the highest prisoner mortality rate — and the largest number of suicides — on record.

In November, an investigation by the Associated Press revealed that since 2019 more than 100 federal prison employees had been arrested, convicted, or sentenced for crimes ranging from drug smuggling to bribery. Earlier this year, the warden of a federal prison in California was charged with sexually abusing detainees.

The news service described the bureau as a "hotbed of abuse, graft, and corruption," stating that leadership had "turned a blind eye" to the problem.

Durbin said this record, and a failure to implement reforms passed by Congress, documented in a new memo from the Office of the Inspector General, should spur Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint new leadership of the federal prison system.

"It is far past time for new, reform-minded leadership in the Bureau of Prisons," Durbin said.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Read the original article on Business Insider