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Barr removes US Bureau of Prisons chief following Epstein’s death in jail

August 19, 2019

WASHINGTON - Attorney General William Barr removed the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons Hugh J. Hurwitz, the Justice Department said Monday, replacing the agency's top official in the wake of the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein earlier this month.

In a statement, Barr said, Hurwitz, who had served in the acting position since last year, would return to the assistant director position he formerly occupied.

Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, is set to take over as director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a position she previously served in for 11 years beginning in 1992, a Department of Justice news release said.

Barr has said he was "appalled" and "angry" to learn of the suicide, and cited "serious irregularities" at the Manhattan facility where Epstein had been detained.

Barr had already shaken up the top leadership at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, announcing last week that the facility's warden would be reassigned while the FBI and Justice Department's inspector general investigated the conditions leading up to the suicide.

A picture of dysfunction in the unit where Epstein was held emerged in the days after he was found dead in his cell.

At least one of the two employees on duty in Epstein's unit at the time was not part of the regular detention workforce but was filling in as a guard, and Epstein had not been checked on for hours before his apparent hanging, according to a person briefed on the matter. Guards are supposed to check on an inmate in the facility's special housing unit, where Epstein was, every 30 minutes.

Barr also tapped Dr. Thomas R. Kane to serve as the agency’s new deputy director.

“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 news release.

Union officials have said resources at prisons had been stretched thin by budget cuts and a hiring freeze that was first put in place at the beginning of the Trump administration.