Two guards at the Manhattan jail where Jeffrey Epstein was being held when he died over the weekend by apparent suicide have been placed on administrative leave after a preliminary investigation found that they had not checked on the disgraced financier for hours before his death. The two employees of the Metropolitan Correctional Center were required to check on Epstein, who stood accused of decades of sex crimes, every 30 minutes, but failed to visit Epstein’s cell in the special housing unit for as long as three hours, the New York Times reports, and then falsified log records to cover up this lapse.
The two employees—one man and one woman, both working overtime because the jail was short-staffed—reportedly slept through the required check-ins in the early morning hours, and Epstein was found dead in his cell at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, a day after a federal appeals court released a cache of documents providing new details of the financier’s sex crimes. During that hourslong stretch, the 66-year-old apparently hanged himself with a bedsheet in his cell.
Epstein’s death raises a number of troubling questions about how the Metropolitan Correctional Center handled the high-profile prisoner. Epstein had been on suicide watch previously after he was found unresponsive in his cell with marks on his neck on July 23, shortly after he was denied bail as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges. Six days after that incident, however, prison officials took Epstein off suicide watch and returned him to the special housing unit in a cell with another inmate. That inmate was later transferred out of the shared cell, leaving Epstein alone, even though, the Times notes, it’s common practice to house inmates recently taken off suicide watch with another prisoner.
The investigation into Epstein’s life and death is surely far from over. The extent of his sex crimes and the people in high places they implicate will now have to be pursued outside of a criminal investigation of Epstein. On Monday, Attorney General William Barr indicated the probe into the circumstances that led to Epstein’s death is a priority. “We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability,” Barr said. “I was appalled and frankly angry to learn of the MCC’s failure to adequately secure this prisoner.”