(CNN) — The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General on Tuesday issued a scathing rebuke of the Bureau of Prisons detailing the multiple failures that led to the death of high-profile financier Jeffrey Epstein following his arrest in 2019 but found no evidence to contradict the “absence of criminality” in his death.
According to the report, the failures that allowed Epstein time to die by suicide in his cell included multiple prison employees failing to conduct rounds and cell searches to check on Epstein, his access to extra bed linens – which he used to hang himself – and failure to assign Epstein a fellow inmate after he was placed on suicide watch.
The OIG, however, did not find evidence “that contradicted the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) determination regarding the absence of criminality in connection with how Epstein died,” according to the report.
“All (prison) staff members who were interviewed by the OIG said they did not know of any information suggesting that Epstein’s cause of death was something other than suicide,” the report states. “Likewise, none of the interviewed inmates provided any credible information that Epstein’s cause of death was something other than suicide.”
Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on federal charges of sex trafficking minors. Then, in August, only 35 days after his arrest, Epstein died by suicide by hanging in his jail cell at New York City’s Metropolitan Correctional Center where he was being held, according to New York City’s medical examiner.
The politically and socially well-connected financier’s death immediately spurned conspiracy theories and significant questioning and intrigue over the circumstances.
The report indicated the Bureau of Prisons’ failings were troubling not only because they did not safeguard Epstein but also because they “led to numerous questions about the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death” and denied Epstein’s victims justice.
Two guards on duty the night of Epstein’s death later admitted to falsifying records at the time. According to the initial indictment against the two guards, on the night of Epstein’s suicide, both individuals repeatedly failed to complete the required prisoners check during their watch.
The guards entered a deferred prosecution with the Justice Department, agreeing to complete 100 hours of community service and cooperate with the DOJ’s Inspector General review.
According to the IG’s report, the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York declined to prosecute other MCC employees who the OIG found certified or submitted false documentation regarding the inmate counts on the days surrounding Epstein’s death.
The scrutiny around Epstein’s suicide and MCC’s failures only intensified after reports revealed Epstein was put on suicide watch after he was found in his cell with bruises on his neck only to be taken off the watch a day later.
According to the OIG report, Epstein was still under psychological evaluation after his first suicide attempt and despite an email being sent to over 70 prison employees notifying them that Epstein needed to be housed with a cellmate, he was alone in his cell on the evening of August 9 and into the next morning, when he died.
“As a result, Epstein was unmonitored and locked alone in his cell for hours with an excess amount of linens, which provided an opportunity for him to commit suicide,” the report says.
The OIG found that three prison employees allowed Epstein to have the excessive amount of linens, despite prison policy prohibiting the extra sheets.
On the day before he was found dead in his prison cell, Epstein was also allowed by prison staff to make an unmonitored phone call, despite prison policy requiring all phone calls to be monitored. The OIG did not uncover who Epstein called.
The failures surrounding Epstein’s death also included the security cameras in the prison, half of which were not able to record due to a long-standing issue that had never been repaired in the facility. Because of this, there was a significant lack of video footage for the FBI and OIG to review in their investigations.
The findings of systematic failure by the BOP are not uncommon. Around half of the DOJ’s OIG caseload involves the BOP, according to the OIG’s most recent semiannual report to Congress.
From October 1 to March 31, the OIG received nearly 4,000 complaints “involving BOP,” that report said, with “Official Misconduct and Force, Abuse, Rights Violations” as the most common allegations made against BOP employees.
In August 2021, two years after Epstein’s death, the BOP announced it would close Metropolitan Correctional Center, citing the need to improve conditions in the facility. It remains closed.
As part of its eight recommendations for the BOP, the OIG said in its report the BOP should create procedures to ensure inmates who are at high-risk of suicide are never without a cellmate, address staffing shortages and evaluate how the BOP accounts for inmates wellbeing and whereabouts.
In a letter responding to the OIG’s report, the BOP concurred with the recommendations.
“In response to this and previous OIG and Government Accountability Office (GAO) engagements, BOP has already begun to evaluate nationwide trends and strengthen employee accountability,” the letter states.
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