The acting director of the federal Bureau of Prisons has been removed from his position more than a week after millionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein took his own life while in federal custody.
Attorney General William Barr announced Hugh Hurwitz’s reassignment Monday. Hurwitz had served as the agency’s acting director since May 2018.
No reason was given for the reassignment, but the move comes as the bureau faces increased scrutiny after Epstein’s suicide August 10 at a New York jail.
Hurwitz will now return to his role as Assistant Director of the BOP Reentry Services Division.
Out: There was no reason given for the decision (Hugh Hurwitz above), which occurred one week after Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide while in federal custody
Problems: Epstein’s (left) suicide and the murder of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger (right) while in federal custody both occurred during Hurwitz’s stint as acting director
The FBI and Justice Department’s inspector general are investigating.
Barr has named Kathleen Hawk Sawyer to succeed Hurwitz. She was the agency’s director from 1992 until 2003.
Hurwitz also led the agency when Boston mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger was killed in a federal prison in West Virginia in October.
‘I am pleased to welcome back Dr. Hawk Sawyer as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. 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,’ said Attorney General Barr on Monday.
‘I am also pleased to announce Dr. Thomas R. Kane as the Deputy Director of BOP. Dr. Kane served in the Bureau for over 30 years under four Attorneys General and is known for his expertise and proficiency in prison management and organization. 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.’
He then went on to state: ‘I would also like to thank Hugh Hurwitz, Acting Director of BOP, for his dedication and service to the Bureau over the last 15 months. 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.’
It was revealed last week that the workers who failed to check on Epstein in the hours before he was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan had obtained legal counsel.
One of those individuals was on his fifth day of overtime and the other was working mandatory overtime at the time of Epstein’s suicide.
The guards’ union boss called out President Trump and his administration in response, saying they ignored their demands for funding, and stating that an incident like this one that happened this weekend was inevitable.
Serene Gregg, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3148, said that funding cuts have left the prison with less than 70 percent of the guards needed to adequately staff the facility, which has resulted in overworked guards who are incapable of performing their duties to the best of their abilities.
‘If it wasn’t Mr. Epstein, it would have been somebody else, because of the conditions at that institution,’ said Gregg.
‘It wasn’t a matter of how it happened or it happening, but it was only a matter of time for it to happen. It was inevitable. Our staff is severely overworked.’
Farewell: Hurwitz will now ‘return to his responsibilities as Assistant Director of BOP’s Reentry Services Division’ said Attorney General Barr (above last week)
Gregg went on to reveal that some of the individuals who have been tasked with checking on inmates are not even guards, but work instead as counselors or teachers and have been forced to assume new responsibilities.
‘It’s daunting, mentally, physically. I would feel confident in saying that some of that contributed to the unfortunate death of inmate Epstein,’ said Gregg.
Gregg has been expressing her concerns about staffing and mandatory overtime for quite some time.
Speaking about the MCC staffing issues in June of last year, she said: ‘Last week they found bullets, and inmates getting K-2 is a constant problem. And you have to pick your battles because you have to worry if you end up in a physical altercation, will anybody be there to come to your rescue?’
She went on to claim: ‘This overtime is mandatory because there is no one to relieve you. This is just basic math. You work 16 hours, and we know we can’t afford to live in Manhattan, so your’re driving an hour to work and an hour home.
Gregg then asked: ‘How long are you going to get to sleep and be with your family?’
This was blamed in some part on the uptick of immigrant detainees being brought in by ICE as the agency launched raids across the country.
Gregg also said that this is not just a problem at MCC.
‘You have people working who are extremely exhausted and others who are not trained to do the work,’ said Gregg.
‘They have been playing a dangerous game for a long time. And it’s not just at MCC, it’s going on across the country.’