Misconduct by federal jail guards led to Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide, Justice Department watchdog says

by Michael Nguyen
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Jeffrey Epstein's suicide

The Justice Department’s watchdog points out negligence, misconduct, and failure in job performance by federal prison staff that led to Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide. Epstein was left unattended in his cell with an excess of bed linens the night he ended his life. Most surveillance cameras in his section were non-functional, and one employee had been working continuously for a day. Despite his previous suicide attempt and high-profile status, he was not regularly monitored as mandated.

A range of failures by the federal Bureau of Prisons and employees at the New York City jail contributed to Epstein’s suicide in August 2019, according to a statement released on Tuesday by the Justice Department’s watchdog. The report found no evidence of foul play.

Numerous factors were pinpointed by Inspector General Michael Horowitz as being responsible for Epstein’s demise, including the absence of a cellmate, overburdened guards who falsified logs after neglecting to conduct routine checks, and the unchecked surplus of bed linens, which Epstein used to commit suicide.

The investigation by Horowitz, the latest in a series of official investigations into Epstein’s death, echoed earlier findings about the overworked jail staff. It identified 13 employees with unsatisfactory performance and suggested charges against four employees. However, only two workers, assigned to watch Epstein on the night of his death, faced charges and avoided imprisonment by confessing to falsifying logs in a plea deal.

The report divulged additional details about Epstein’s behavior before his death. It mentioned a new will and testament signed by him two days before he was found unresponsive in his cell on August 10, 2019. This fact was unknown to the prison officials until after his death.

The camera system in the facility was defective, with many cameras in Epstein’s housing area not recording due to a mechanical fault. This came despite a contract for a camera system upgrade three years before his death, which had been delayed due to significant staffing shortages.

Even though Epstein was advised to have a cellmate following his earlier suicide attempt, he was alone on the night of his death. His cellmate was transferred the previous day, with no replacement plan in place.

The report identified numerous problems within the Bureau of Prisons, many of which have been highlighted by The Big Big News. The bureau, the largest department of the Justice Department, with over 30,000 employees, 158,000 inmates and an annual budget of around $8 billion, is burdened with serious staffing shortages, staff sexual misconduct, and criminal behavior.

The Bureau of Prisons has agreed to implement all eight of Horowitz’s suggestions, promising to enhance its suicide watch protocol and apply learned lessons to its broader correctional framework.

The bureau also plans to ensure proper rounds are made in restrictive housing by reviewing video footage and requiring additional documentation when prisoners are kept in solitary confinement. Training on suicide prevention is also required.

Over 4,000 pages of documents related to Epstein’s death have been acquired by the AP from the federal Bureau of Prisons under the Freedom of Information Act. They include a detailed psychological reconstruction of the events leading up to Epstein’s suicide and his health history, internal agency reports, emails, memos, and other records.

Nearly four years after Epstein’s death at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges, Horowitz’s report was released. The investigators found no evidence of anything other than suicide, aligning with the conclusion of New York City’s medical examiner’s office and an independent FBI investigation.

Horowitz’s investigation debunked conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s death, citing a lack of physical evidence. Also, the videos from functioning cameras did not show any signs of another individual in the cell. Investigations found no evidence of financial transactions involving guards.

The guards assigned to Epstein were accused of sleeping and online shopping instead of checking on him every half hour as mandated. They confessed to fabricating prison records but avoided imprisonment under a deal with prosecutors.

This is the second time in half a year that Horowitz has linked an inmate’s death to the Bureau of Prisons’ shortcomings. In December, the inspector general attributed notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger’s 2018 death at a troubled West Virginia prison to management failures, flawed policies, and widespread incompetence.

More than 4,000 pages of documents related to Epstein’s death, including a reconstruction of events leading to Epstein’s suicide, internal reports, emails, memos, and other records, were obtained by the AP from the federal Bureau of Prisons under the Freedom of Information Act, revealing how staffing shortages and cost-cutting measures contributed to Epstein’s death.

Epstein spent 36 days at the now-defunct Metropolitan Correctional Center. Two weeks before his death, he was put on suicide watch for 31 hours following what jail officials claimed was a suicide attempt resulting in a bruised and scraped neck.

The guards responsible for Epstein on the night of his demise were working overtime. One, who wasn’t usually assigned to monitor prisoners, was working for the fifth consecutive day of overtime. The other was compelled to work an additional eight-hour shift in one day.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide

What does the Justice Department’s watchdog attribute to Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide?

The Justice Department’s watchdog attributes Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide to a combination of negligence, misconduct, and job performance failures by the federal prison staff.

Who is the Justice Department’s watchdog that conducted the investigation into Epstein’s death?

The investigation into Epstein’s death was conducted by Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

What were some factors that contributed to Epstein’s suicide, according to the watchdog’s report?

The report pointed out numerous factors contributing to Epstein’s suicide, including the failure of the jail to assign him a cellmate, overworked guards who falsified logs after neglecting to make regular checks, and Epstein’s unchecked surplus of bed linens, which he used in his suicide.

What new details about Epstein’s behavior prior to his death were revealed in the report?

The report revealed that Epstein signed a new will and testament two days before he was found unresponsive in his cell. This information was unknown to prison officials until after his death.

What measures has the Bureau of Prisons proposed to take in response to the findings in Horowitz’s report?

The Bureau of Prisons has agreed to implement all eight of Horowitz’s recommendations. This includes enhancements to its suicide watch protocol, reviewing video footage to ensure proper rounds are made in restrictive housing, requiring more documentation when prisoners are kept in solitary confinement, and mandatory training on suicide prevention.

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