With multiple media outlets reporting that Jeffrey Epstein has died via hanging, while confined at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan (MCC New York), questions are already being asked about the circumstances of his death. How can a federal pretrial detainee reportedly on suicide watch after a recent suicide attempt engage in self-injurious behavior? These questions are fair and require complete answers.
Experience demonstrates a standard operating procedure for correctional systems’ management of inmates on suicide watch. They are housed in mental health units. They are placed in single cells from which all property, including blankets, is removed. The light in the cell is always on. Both correctional and mental health staff conduct routine, scheduled wellness checks. And inmates are forced to wear a Ferguson gowns – giant padded gowns secured by Velcro straps instead of ties. If this is how the MCC was managing Epstein, it is difficult to see how he would have had either the opportunity or the means to hang himself.
Notably, this is not the first time that the Bureau of Prisons’ management of a high-profile inmate has drawn scrutiny, however. Just last year, Whitey Bulger was killed hours after arriving USP Hazelton (WV), and Hazelton’s warden retired some six months later. No doubt an investigation will be conducted into Epstein’s death, and the light shown on the BOP will likely be harsh.