US attorney general shakes up prisons bureau after Epstein's death

US attorney general shakes up prisons bureau after Epstein's death

William Barr
US Attorney General William Barr. (REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo)

WASHINGTON: US Attorney General William Barr on Monday (Aug 19) announced a new leadership team at the federal Bureau of Prisons in a shakeup of the agency in the wake of financier Jeffrey Epstein's suicide inside a federal jail in New York City.

Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, a veteran of the Bureau of Prisons, will return to the agency to serve as its director, Barr said. He named another former agency official, Thomas Kane, to serve as her deputy.

The Bureau of Prisons has about 37,000 employees and oversees 122 facilities, which house about 180,000 inmates.

Hugh Hurwitz, who has been serving as the bureau's acting director - including when Epstein was found unresponsive over a week ago in a Manhattan jail cell - has been reassigned to his prior position within the agency.

Epstein had been arrested on Jul 6 and pleaded not guilty to federal charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as young as 14.

An autopsy report released on Friday concluded he committed suicide by hanging.

His death at the age of 66 at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan triggered multiple investigations and had prompted Barr to criticise "serious irregularities" at the facility.

"During this critical juncture, I am confident Dr Hawk Sawyer and Dr Kane will lead BOP with the competence, skill, and resourcefulness they have embodied throughout their government careers," Barr said in the statement.

Lawyers for Epstein did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

His lawyers had said in a statement last week that they were "not satisfied" with the medical examiner's conclusions and planned to carry out their own investigation, seeking prison videos taken around the time of his death.

Epstein had been on suicide watch at the jail but was taken off prior to his death, a source who was not authorised to speak on the matter previously told Reuters. Two jail guards are required to make separate checks on all prisoners every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not followed, the source added.

Epstein, a registered sex offender who once socialised with US President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton, pleaded guilty in 2008 to Florida state charges of unlawfully paying a teenage girl for sex and was sentenced to 13 months in a county jail, a deal widely criticised as too lenient. 

Source: Reuters

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