After Epstein suicide, attorney general reassigns federal prisons chief

The acting director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons has been removed from his position more than a week after Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide while in federal custody. Attorney General William Barr announced Hugh Hurwitz’s reassignment Monday, stating that he will be replaced by Dr. Hawk Sawyer.

Hurwitz had served as the agency’s acting director since May 2018. “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.

Sawyer was appointed by Barr the first time he was attorney general to lead the Bureau of Prisons and stayed from 1992 to 2003. Five months prior to her April 2003 retirement, then-Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson sent a memo to Sawyer rebuking the bureau for keeping white collar criminals out of federal prisons.

In the memo, Thompson noted that the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel had concluded the bureau was unlawfully sending white-collar criminals to “Community Corrections Centers,” or halfway houses, instead of prison, adding that the use of the much less restrictive penalty risked “eroding public confidence in the federal judicial system. White collar criminals are no less deserving of incarceration…than conventional offenders.”

No reason was given for the reassignment of Hurwitz, but the move comes as the bureau faces increased scrutiny after Epstein’s suicide Aug. 10 at a federal jail in New York. The FBI and Justice Department’s inspector general are investigating.

Last week, CBS News correspondent Mola Lenghi reported corrections officers at the Metropolitan Correctional Center may have falsified reports saying they checked on Epstein as required by protocol. 

Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his federal prison cell on August 10, 2019.  CBS News

CBS News has learned that surveillance video apparently showed guards never made some of the checks noted in the prison log. A representative for staffers at the facility said work conditions there have been inadequate for nearly two years.

Corrections officers have long complained about being overworked with 60-plus hour work weeks and mandatory overtime. Multiple sources told CBS News that Epstein’s cellmate at the facility posted bail the day before Epstein died, leaving him alone in his cell.

Another source familiar with the investigation said it appears Epstein had been dead one to two hours before he was found.

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