AG Bill Barr taps new leaders for Bureau of Prisons in wake of Epstein death

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In the immediate aftermath of the reported suicide of accused pedophile and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in a New York City jail cell, Attorney General William Barr expressed his deep disappointment at the “serious irregularities” at the prison that somehow resulted in a high-profile inmate in federal protective custody ending up dead.

Barr wasted no time in reassigning the warden of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan and placing the two guards on duty at the time of Epstein’s death on administrative leave, but the attorney general has now acted again by making wholesale changes to the leadership of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

Reassignment and demotion

Barr announced on Monday that the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, Hugh Hurwitz, had been removed from that position and essentially demoted to his prior role in the bureau as the assistant director of the Reentry Services Division. He had been serving as the acting director of the BOP since May 2018.

The demotion of Hurwitz came just days after Barr reassigned the MCC’s warden, Lamine N’Diaye, to another prison for the time being.

Coinciding with that was Barr’s decision to place on administrative leave the two guards who’d been assigned to watch over Epstein the night of his death.

It has been reported that those two guards, who had been working overtime due to staffing shortages, had fallen asleep while on duty and had falsified logbooks later to make it appear as though they had dutifully checked in on Epstein and other inmates as was required.

New blood at BOP

The change in leadership at the bureau was announced on Monday in a news release from the Department of Justice. Barr named Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer as the new director of the bureau and Dr. Thomas R. Krane as the new deputy director underneath Sawyer.

Coincidentally, Sawyer previously served as the director of the bureau from 1992 to 2003, a position to which she had been appointed by Barr in his first go-round as attorney general during the administration of former President George H.W. Bush.

“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 the statement.

“I would also like to thank Hugh Hurwitz, Acting Director of BOP, for his dedication and service to the Bureau over the last fifteen months,” Barr added. “I have asked Mr. Hurwitz to return to his responsibilities as Assistant Director of BOP’s Reentry Services Division, where he will work closely with me in overseeing the implementation of one of the Department’s highest priorities, the First Step Act.”

Investigations continue

Meanwhile, as Barr works to reform the leadership at the Bureau of Prisons to mitigate the chances of another high-profile inmate death, the Justice Department’s investigations into both the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death as well as his alleged sex trafficking crimes will continue unabated.

Attorney General Barr has made it quite clear that he is dissatisfied with how things have been handled regarding Epstein, and he has made no bones about the fact that he is ready and willing to make changes at every level to prevent such a travesty from happening again in the future.

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