The acting director of the Bureau of Prisons has been removed from his post by the Attorney General just days after controversial financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his cell. There are serious questions about how Epstein was handled while in custody and a lot of pressure to find and punish whoever made the decisions that led to his death.
Jeffrey Epstein, the millionaire financier and convicted sex offender arrested in July on suspicion of trafficking children for sex, died in an apparent jailhouse suicide on August 10th — despite being a known suicide risk and a very high-profile prisoner. His body was barely cool before many people, not surprisingly, started asking how this was allowed to happen.
- The main controversy is why Epstein wasn’t on suicide watch when he died. This is suspicious because he’d been on suicide watch — for a very good reason. On July 23rd, he was found unconscious in his cell at New York’s Metropolitan Correction Center with neck injuries. The details haven’t been released, but neck injuries are typical in attempted hangings.
- Epstein was kept on suicide watch for 6 days, then taken off it without explanation and transferred to the prison’s special housing unit. Six days is a very short time to maintain a suicide watch, but the prison told the Justice Department that Epstein would have a cellmate and get checked by guards every 30 minutes.
- These procedures aren’t as reliable as a suicide watch, but they were better than nothing as long as they were followed correctly — and they weren’t. On the night of August 9th, Epstein was left alone in his cell and at some point during the night, the checks stopped happening. By morning inspection he was unconscious and died at the hospital shortly thereafter. An autopsy showed he’d either been hanged or strangled.
- Now, Attorney General Bill Barr has removed the man whose watch it happened on — acting BoP director Hugh Hurwitz — and handed the Bureau over to former director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer.
- This isn’t the first time Barr has put Sawyer in the job. When he was previously AG, during the first Bush administration, he appointed her to the same post, and she held it from 1992 to 2003. Barr said on Monday, “Under Dr. Hawk Sawyer’s previous tenure at the bureau, she led the agency with excellence, innovation, and efficiency.”
- It’s likely Hurwitz won’t be the only person to lose their job over Epstein’s death. In the words of Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), the Justice Department has failed and “heads must roll.”
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