The procedure was strict, at least on paper. Guards were supposed to check in on Jeffrey Epstein every 30 minutes. But the night before he was found dead in his cell Saturday morning, that procedure was not carried out, a law enforcement official tells the New York Times. And even though Epstein had been taken off suicide watch just two weeks earlier, officials at the Metropolitan Correctional Center transferred his cellmate and left the financier alone in a cell, “a decision that also violated the jail’s normal procedure,” notes the Times.
There have already been lots of questions about why prison officials took Epstein off suicide watch so soon after he was found in his cell on July 23 with injuries that suggested he tried to harm himself. But when that decision was made, the jail told the Justice Department that Epstein would not be left alone in his cell and that a guard “would look into his cell” every half-hour.
Why Epstein was left alone in his cell remains unclear. But the Daily Beast reveals that Epstein “lived like a pig in a sty” in his cell, according to a source. That source claims Epstein ate his meals off the floor and was constantly asking for more toilet paper.
The revelation will likely send conspiracy theorists into overdrive, but the Times also hints at another possible reason for the failure to follow protocol. The jail was short-staffed, like many federal prisons, and those on duty where Epstein was kept had been working overtime. “One of the corrections officers was working his fifth straight day of overtime, while the other officer had been forced to work overtime,” reports the Times.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr demanding that “heads must roll” after the apparent suicide. “Every single person in the Justice Department—from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer—knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn’t be allowed to die with him,” Sasse wrote. Barr said he was “appalled” by Epstein’s death and vowed that the FBI and Justice Department would investigate what happened.