Attorney general shakes up prison bureau after Epstein death

BARR: Attorney General William Barr is pictured after a farewell ceremony for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., May 9. Reuters

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK – Attorney General William Barr on Monday shook up the leadership at the federal Bureau of Prisons, removing its acting chief following the suicide of financier Jeffrey Epstein in a New York City jail.

Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, a veteran of the Bureau of Prisons, will return to the agency to serve as its director, Barr said. He named another former agency official, Thomas Kane, to serve as her deputy.

The Bureau of Prisons has about 37,000 employees and oversees 122 facilities, which house about 180,000 inmates.

Hugh Hurwitz, who had been acting chief since May 2018, was reassigned to his prior post as director of the bureau’s re-entry services division.

Epstein was arrested on July 6 and pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls as young as 14.

He died on Aug. 10, when he was found unresponsive in his jail cell. An autopsy report released on Friday concluded he committed suicide by hanging.

Prosecutors asked a federal judge on Monday to dismiss the criminal case against Epstein, a standard procedure when a defendant dies. The dismissal has no effect on their investigation into people who may have conspired with Epstein.

The government “remains committed to doing its utmost to stand up for the victims who have already come forward, as well as for the many others who have yet to do so,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a letter to the judge.

Epstein’s death at the age of 66 at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan triggered multiple investigations and had prompted Barr to criticize “serious irregularities” at the facility.

“During this critical juncture, I am confident Dr. Hawk Sawyer and Dr. Kane will lead BOP with the competence, skill, and resourcefulness they have embodied throughout their government careers,” Barr said in a statement.

Barr previously ordered the reassignment of the warden at the MCC. Two corrections officers assigned to Epstein’s unit were placed on administrative leave pending investigations.

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