Bureau of Prisons chief removed after Jeffrey Epstein suicide

Attorney General William Barr removed the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons, 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 Hugh 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, who led the bureau from 1992 to 2003, will be the new director, Barr 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.

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.

This story has been updated.