The top official at the New York prison that had housed Jeffrey Epstein before his apparent suicide is being moved temporarily as the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general investigate the circumstances of the death.
Two employees at the Metropolitan Correctional Center who had been assigned to Epstein’s unit are also being placed on administrative leave, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, adding that “additional actions may be taken as the circumstances warrant.”
The moves, which were directed by Attorney General William Barr, come one day after Barr said there were “serious irregularities” at the New York prison and that he was “appalled” and “angry” to learn of the facility’s “failure to adequately secure this prisoner.”
The warden, Lamine N’diaye, will be moved to a Bureau of Prisons regional office and will be replaced by James Petrucci, the warden of the federal prison in Otisville, New York.
A picture of dysfunction in the unit where Epstein was held as he faced new charges of sex trafficking has emerged since his death over the weekend.
At least one of the two employees on duty in Epstein’s unit at the time was not part of the regular detention workforce but was filling in as a guard, and Epstein had not been checked on for hours before his apparent hanging, according to a person briefed on the matter. Guards are supposed to check on an inmate in the facility’s special housing unit, where Epstein was, every 30 minutes.
Both guards were working overtime shifts, but it’s unclear whether that was mandatory. One person familiar with the matter said both employees had volunteered. Union officials say the overtime was mandatory.
Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after an earlier incident in the jail and was receiving daily psychological assessments, but had been returned to the special housing unit after the prison determined it was safe for him to be taken off the close watch, the person briefed on the matter said.
This story has been updated.