Department of Justice Seal

Remarks* of Deputy Attorney General
Kathleen Hawk Sawyer Retirement Dinner
Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
Thursday - April 3, 2003

   Good evening.

   I am honored and privileged to welcome all of you here on this special occasion – the retirement of Dr. Kathy Hawk Sawyer from the Bureau of Prisons.

   I am new to Washington and have come to learn that this is a funny town. For example, people covet so-called face time with Agency and Department heads.

   Kathy defied the Washington odds by succeeding with as little face time with the Attorney General and myself as was necessary. Under Kathy's able leadership and the great work of its employees, the Bureau of Prisons has not required constant attention from main Justice. For that, we are grateful, Kathy.

   The Attorney General and I obviously have had a lot of confidence in Kathy, and we could rest easy knowing that she was doing what was right.

   With all that we have had to do, especially since 9/11, this has been even more important since it allowed us to focus on other areas, including the war on terrorism.

   In part, our trust stems from the fact that the Bureau under Kathy's leadership has been its own most important critic.

   If there have been areas of concern, the Bureau has been the first to identify and communicate them directly to the Department of Justice, then develop ways to resolve the issues.

   Associate Deputy Attorney General Paul Murphy, who serves as the bridge between my office in main Justice and the Bureau, feels very comfortable that the Bureau keeps us fully apprised of all relevant matters and efficiently handles all issues that arise.

   Kathy Sawyer will retire from the Bureau with over 27 years of Bureau service, over 10 of which she served as its Director.

   During her tenure, as a direct result of changes to sentencing laws and various law enforcement initiatives, the Bureau experienced unprecedented growth in its inmate population.

   The Bureau's inmate population more than doubled from 80,372 in 1992 to its current population of almost 168,000; and the number of institutions increased from 64 to 103, with another 17 facilities in various stages of planning and construction. Kathy's administrative team, the third longest in the Bureau's 73-year history, managed this growth effectively, while always remembering the need to be good stewards of the public trust.

   We have so much faith in the Bureau's leadership that Attorney General Ashcroft felt very comfortable in appointing another Bureau career administrator to that position after Dr. Hawk Sawyer announced her decision to retire.

   We are certain this astute leadership of BOP will continue. When the Attorney General interviewed Harley Lappin for the Director's position, General Ashcroft informed Harley that he wanted to maintain solid leadership in the Bureau – the kind of leadership where the Attorney General would not be getting calls in the middle of the night about an institution disturbance. Harley ever so wisely responded he would not call the AG or the Deputy even if the Bureau experienced catastrophic disturbance. Thank you, Harley.

   During Kathy's tenure, whatever scorecard the Administration, Department, or the Office of Management and Budget have used to measure the quality of any governmental component, the Bureau of Prisons has consistently come out at the top.

   The Attorney General frequently states that, to serve your country is a high honor, and to serve your country in time of peril is the highest honor of all. Kathy led the Bureau during the 9/11 aftermath, one of our Nation's darkest hours, and during our subsequent response to that tragedy. Under her leadership, Bureau of Prisons staff have given selflessly of their time and energy to turn the tragedies of 9/11 into triumphs for our country.

   We are confident that Kathy Sawyer is leaving the Bureau to continue to serve the people of our Nation, just in a different way, along with her husband Jack.

   Kathy, the Attorney General and I wish you the very best as you and Jack move on to your next challenges in life. We know you will be successful at whatever you choose and that our country will be better for it.

   We thank you for your years of dedicated service to the Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Justice, and to America; for your professionalism and your vision, but most of all, for your leadership.

   We will miss you – not only for your leadership of BOP – but for your outstanding participation as a key member of the Department's leadership team on the Strategic Management Council.

   We know you have left the Bureau well-positioned to move into its future and look forward to working with Harley Lappin as he takes over as the Bureau's 7th Director.

   Thank you.

*NOTE: Mr. Thompson frequently speaks from notes and may depart from the speech as prepared. However, he stands behind the speech as presented in written format.