Justice Dept. to Close Troubled Jail Where Jeffrey Epstein Died
Conditions at a high-security federal jail in Lower Manhattan have deteriorated so much that federal officials said on Thursday that they planned …
Conditions at a high-security federal jail in Lower Manhattan have deteriorated so much that federal officials said on Thursday that they planned to close the facility, at least temporarily.
The decision comes just weeks after the deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, visited the jail in order to get a firsthand look at its operations, “given ongoing concerns,” as the Justice Department said at the time.
The rust-colored lockup, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, has long been criticized by inmates, lawyers and even judges for the conditions in which prisoners have been held. Its current population is 233, according to prisons officials. Most of the people held there are being detained while awaiting a trial.
The jail is perhaps best known as the place where Jeffrey Epstein, who was facing sex-trafficking charges, was found dead in his cell in August 2019 in what was ruled a suicide. Two jail guards were later accused of surfing the internet and napping rather than regularly checking in on him as they were supposed to do the night before he was found dead.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said in a statement on Thursday that the department was “committed to ensuring that every facility in the federal prison system is not only safe and secure, but also provides people in custody with the resources and programs they need to make a successful return to society after they have served their time.”
As part of that effort, the statement said, the federal Bureau of Prisons had “assessed steps necessary to improve conditions” at the M.C.C., and in an effort to address them “as quickly and efficiently as possible,” the department had decided to close the jail, “at least temporarily, until those issues have been resolved.”
The statement did not address where the prisoners now being held at the jail would be moved, although one possibility would be other federal jails in the region, like the Metropolitan Detention Center, or M.D.C., in Brooklyn, and the federal prison in Otisville, N.Y.
In April, Judge Colleen McMahon of Federal District Court in Manhattan, who had just stepped down as chief judge, said during the sentencing of a defendant that “the single thing in the five years that I was chief judge of this court that made me the craziest was my complete and utter inability to do anything meaningful about the conditions at the M.C.C., especially at the M.C.C.,” she said, as well as the M.D.C.
“There is no excuse for the conditions in those two institutions,” she said, adding that they “are run by morons.”