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She Tried to ‘Humanize’ Prisons in Oregon. Can She Fix the Federal System? [themarshallproject.org]

 

By Keri Blakinger, Photo: Evelyn Hockstein, The Marshall Project, August 4, 2022

When the embattled head of the federal Bureau of Prisons stepped down earlier this year, many hoped his replacement would be someone able to overhaul the scandal-plagued federal system.

The final pick — Oregon prison director Colette Peters — seemed to fit the bill. During her 10 years at the helm of the state corrections department, Peters burnished a reputation as a reformer, vowing to reduce the use of solitary confinement and of the potentially stigmatizing word “inmate.” Like her counterparts in California and North Dakota, she made headlines by visiting Norway in the hope of bringing a gentler model of incarceration back to the United States.

“We know so much more about what works in corrections than we did 10 years ago,” Peters said at her swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday. “Our job is not to make good inmates. It’s to make good neighbors.”

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“It has been said that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty. Or, as Bernie Siegel, MD, puts it, quite simply, after half a century of practicing medicine, ‘I have become convinced that our number-one public health problem is our childhood’.”  

— Childhood Disrupted, pg.228

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