DOJ report blasts prison staff misconduct

U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019.New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services | Handout | Reuters”Significant misconduct” by federal Bureau of Prisons staff made it much easier for sex predator Jeffrey Epstein to kill himself in a New York jail in August 2019, a Department of Justice watchdog said in a new report Tuesday.The 120-page report, which made eight recommendations to the BOP to address “numerous issues,” also said that “the combination of negligence, misconduct, and outright job performance failures” also led to widespread skepticism about the circumstances of Epstein’s death.And “most importantly,” those failures deprived “his numerous victims, many of whom were underage girls at the time of the alleged crimes, of their ability to seek justice through the criminal justice process,” the report by the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General said.The report details how BOP employees failed to check in every 30 minutes on the 66-year-old investor in his cell, lied about their failure to do so, and allowed him to have extra clothing.It also said staff failed to replace a cellmate that Epstein lost on Aug. 9, 2019, the day before he was found dead in his cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan. The jail’s Psychology Department had issued a directive that he be given a new cellmate.Epstein’s death came a month after he was arrested on federal child sex trafficking charges. The city’s Medical Examiner’s office ruled shortly after his death that Epstein’s injuries were consistent with him hanging himself, rather than from being strangled by another person.A general view of the Manhattan Correctional Center where the US financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in New York, United States on August 10, 2019.Atilgan Ozdil | Anadolu Agency | Getty ImagesThe watchdog report, which found misconduct by more than a dozen BOP staff, did not find any evidence that Epstein was murdered by either another inmate or BOP staff, which has been the subject of widespread conspiracy theories since he died.Epstein previously had been found in his cell on July 23, 2019, with orange cloth around his neck. His cellmate told officers that Epstein had tried to hang himself, the report noted.Two BOP correctional officers, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, were arrested in November 2019 on a federal indictment charging them with conspiracy and filing false records in connection with their failure to monitor Epstein the night that he died and then lying about it. In May 2021, a judge approved a deferred prosecution deal for both ex-guards, allowing them to escape a potential criminal conviction.Tuesday’s OIG report blasted the BOP for the failures that contributed to Epstein’s suicide, noting that “this is not the first time the OIG has found significant job performance and management failures on the part of BOP personnel and widespread disregard of BOP policies that are designed to ensure that inmates are safe, secure, and in good health.”CNBC PoliticsRead more of CNBC’s politics coverage:”The fact that these failures have been recurring ones at the BOP does not excuse them and gives additional urgency to the need for DOJ and BOP leadership to address the chronic staffing, surveillance, safety and security, and related problems plaguing the BOP,” the report said.DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in a statement, “The combination of negligence, misconduct and outright job performance failures documented in today’s report all contributed to an environment in which arguably one of the most notorious prison inmates in BOP’s custody was left unmonitored and alone in his cell with an excess of prison linens, thereby providing him with the opportunity to take his own life.”In a statement to CNBC, a BOP spokesperson thanked the OIG for its report, and said, “We note that several enhanced practices have already been implemented to address the issues at hand.””These improvements include diligent review of video footage from restrictive housing to ensure that employee rounds are conducted promptly and accurately,” the spokesman said. “In addition, lieutenants have been assigned the responsibility of conducting regular counts in restrictive housing, while employees are now required to submit reports on inmates housed alone. Furthermore, it is mandatory to notify the warden for a thorough review whenever an individual is placed on suicide watch.”Epstein’s was one of several high-profile prison deaths in recent years. A year before Epstein died in the MCC, notorious Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger was murdered in a West Virginia federal prison. And on June 10, Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber who murdered three people and injured 23 more in mail bombings that spanned 17 years, died from suicide in a North Carolina federal prison medical center.Epstein, a former friend of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, previously served a 13-month stint in Florida state jail after pleading guilty in 2008 to soliciting sex for money from an underage girl.— CNBC’s Jim Forkin contributed to this report.

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