Embattled millionaire and sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein, 66, died at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre, Manhattan, probably due to a "watch oversight" on part of the prison guards.
Epstein was found dead in his cell on August 10 in a reported case of suicide as he was awaiting trial. As per jail protocol, the two guards on "rounds" are supposed to check on prisoners every 30 minutes. The checks are done on prisoners on suicide watch every 15 minutes. Reports said the checks were skipped overnight, giving the offender an opportunity to end his life, shortly before 7 a.m.
Earlier, Epstein was found unconscious in his cell on July 23 in an apparent suicide bid. He was subsequently placed on suicide watch, but only till July 29. During the watch, he received psychiatric evaluations on all days, as per an NY Times report. The decision of the prison authorities to lift the watch hastily, deeming the prisoner would not take his life, has been termed baffling.
Epstein had reportedly told prison guards and fellow prisoners that someone was trying to kill him. A source had but told Daily Mail that the usually reserved prisoner was in good spirits days ahead of his death and there was "no indication that he would take his life." The inside source, who had seen Epstein multiple times during incarceration, said, "From what I saw, he was finally starting to adjust to prison. I think he was comforted by the rigidity of his new life."
As of now, the death is being treated as a suicide. A coroner's report is awaited too. The death has had its repercussions outside. There was massive outrage that hinged on the thought that the deviant sexual predator managed to evade the justice system. The NY Times quoted Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, as writing to the Justice Department that it was inexcusable that "Mr. Epstein had not been under a 24-hour watch. “These victims deserved to face their serial abuser in court.”
Attorney-General William Brar said he had asked the inspector-general for the Justice Department to open an investigation "into how it happened."
"The suicide should have likely been recorded on the jail cameras," said Preet Bharara, a former Manhattan-based U.S. attorney. The NY Times said the Federal Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to requests for information about its decision to lift the suicide watch on Epstein.
Reports said a prisoner on suicide watch would not be able to kill himself as there would be a constant gaze on him. Inmates on the watch are placed in cells with observation windows, "bolted down beds" and "no bedclothes." Sometimes, officers also deprive inmates of shoelaces and belts. An NY Times report said a correction officer or a trained fellow inmate would act as the "suicide companion."
The report said the watch is only lifted when the program coordinator, who is generally the chief psychologist at the facility, considers the inmate "no longer at imminent risk for suicide" after a personal and face-to-face evaluation.