Attorney General William Barr announced the appointment of a new director for the Bureau of Prisons on Monday, a week after accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his federal prison cell.
Epstein, who’d been arrested and charged in July and was being held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center while awaiting a trial scheduled to begin sometime next summer, hanged himself in what New York City medical examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said was a suicide.
Numerous glaring problems at the prison were revealed in the wake of Epstein’s death.
Barr announced today Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, who previously served as director of the Bureau of Prisons from 1992 through 2003, would again head the nation’s federal prison system. Barr said the acting director for the Bureau of Prisons, Hugh Hurwitz, would be returning to his old job as assistant director of Bureau of Prisons Reentry Services Division after 15 months in his current job. Barr also said Thomas Kane, who worked at the Bureau of Prisons from 1977 to 2018, will serve as Sawyer’s new deputy.
“I am pleased to welcome back Dr. Hawk Sawyer as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons,” Barr said. “Under Dr. Hawk Sawyer’s previous tenure at the Bureau, she led the agency with excellence, innovation, and efficiency, receiving numerous awards for her outstanding leadership.”
Barr said last week that he was “appalled” to learn of Epstein’s apparent suicide and revealed the Justice Department was “learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation.”
He promised that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and the FBI, who are both investigating the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death, will “get to the bottom of what happened.” Barr also said “there will be accountability” for those who did not do their jobs properly. The Justice Department announced last Tuesday that the warden in charge of the New York City prison was reassigned to a regional office pending the outcome of the ongoing investigations.
Many questions remain about why Epstein was reportedly taken off suicide watch despite allegedly being found nearly unconscious on his cell floor with marks on his neck in July and why such a high-profile prisoner wasn’t being closely monitored.
There were numerous alleged failures at the prison that have emerged in the last few days, including: Epstein not having a cellmate; corrections officers violating protocol by not checking on Epstein every 30 minutes despite him previously being on suicide watch; one guard assigned to watch Epstein not normally working as a corrections officer; prison guards working mandatory overtime shifts multiple days in a row and 60- or 70-hour work weeks; guards not being trained properly; guards falling asleep on the job; and the records about how often Epstein was being checked on being falsified.
Epstein, the already convicted sex offender and jet-setting financier, was alleged to have “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls” at his homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations, between 2002 and 2005 and perhaps beyond. Prosecutors claimed Epstein “enticed and recruited” minor girls to “engage in sex acts with him” and built a “vast network of underage victims.”