84°F
weather icon Clear

US prisons chief removed in wake of Epstein’s death

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr has removed the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons from his position more than a week after millionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein took his own life while in federal custody.

Hugh Hurwitz’s reassignment Monday comes amid mounting evidence that guards at the chronically understaffed Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York abdicated their responsibility to keep the 66-year-old Epstein from killing himself while he awaited trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls. The FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general are investigating his death.

Barr named Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, the prison agency’s director from 1992 until 2003, to replace Hurwitz. Hurwitz is moving to a role as a deputy in charge of the bureau’s reentry programs, where he will work with Barr on putting in place the First Step Act, a criminal justice overhaul.

The bureau has come under intense scrutiny since Epstein’s death, with lawmakers and Barr demanding answers about how Epstein was left unsupervised and able to take his own life on Aug. 10 while held at one of the most secure federal jails in America.

No specific reason given

A statement from Barr gave no specific reason for the reassignment. But Barr said last week that officials had uncovered “serious irregularities” and was angry that staff members at the jail had failed to “adequately secure this prisoner.”

He ordered bureau last Tuesday to temporarily reassign the warden , Lamine N’Diaye, to a regional office and the two guards who were supposed to be watching Epstein were placed on administrative leave.

Those guards on Epstein’s unit failed to check on him every half hour, as required, and are suspected of falsifying log entries to show they had, according to several people familiar with the matter. Both guards were working overtime because of staffing shortages, the people said.

Multiple people familiar with operations at the jail say Epstein was taken off the watch after about a week and put back in a high-security housing unit where he was less closely monitored, but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

Hurwitz is a longtime bureaucrat who joined the bureau in 1998. He had also served in the Education Department, the Food and Drug Administration and worked for NASA’s office of inspector general. He returned to the prison agency in 2015 and was appointed acting director by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018.

He also weathered through the death of Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, who was killed in a federal prison in West Virginia in October, just after he was transferred there. Lawmakers, advocates and even prison guards had been sounding the alarm about dangerous conditions there for years, but there has been no public indication that federal prison officials took any action to address the safety concerns. Bulger’s killing was the third at the facility within six months.

Responsible for 122 facilities

As director of the bureau, Hurwitz was responsible for overseeing 122 facilities, 37,000 staff member and about 184,000 inmates.

Hawk Sawyer was the first woman to lead the agency and held a number of jobs during nearly 27 years there. She worked as a psychologist a federal correctional facility in West Virginia, was as an associate warden and then a warden at other facilities, and ultimately was nominated to lead the agency during Barr’s first stint as attorney general in the early 1990s.

“Under Dr. Hawk Sawyer’s previous tenure at the Bureau, she led the agency with excellence, innovation, and efficiency, receiving numerous awards for her outstanding leadership,” Barr said in a statement.

Barr also named Thomas Kane, a longtime bureau employee who has held a variety of leadership roles, as the deputy director.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
THE LATEST
US alleges visa fraud scheme targeting American research

WASHINGTON — A Chinese government employee was arrested Monday after the Justice Department linked him to a visa fraud scheme intended to help others enter the United States to recruit research talent.

More tainted marijuana found in Las Vegas

The Nevada Department of Taxation on Monday issued a health notice after batches of marijuana sold from four Las Vegas dispensaries were found to have fungus, bacteria and high levels of mold and yeast.