A longtime Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employee—who previously served as a warden of three prisons—has praised Attorney General William Barr’s appointee for director of the agency. He also called the recent staffing changes in the bureau “not uncommon.”
Cameron Lindsay, who worked at the BOP from 1989 to 2009, described newly appointed Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer as a “high-quality individual.” Sawyer previously served as the prisons chief between 1992 and 2003, during part of Lindsay’s career at the agency.
“The Attorney General, and consequently the Federal Bureau of Prisons, hit a home run with the appointment of Kathleen,” he told The Epoch Times. “She’s had a lot of inter-institutional experience within jails and prisons.”
Lindsay said he believes the agency is “getting back to their roots” with the hiring of Sawyer. “I think she was an extraordinary director [before]; I know that she will be now.”
In the wake of Jeffrey Epstein’s death—which the New York City Medical Examiner’s office ruled a suicide by hanging—the BOP has seen a number of staffing changes. Epstein’s lawyers say they are “not satisfied” with the results and have vowed to conduct their own investigation into his death.
Barr announced on Aug. 19 that Hugh Hurwitz, who served as the prisons chief for the past 15 months, has been asked to return to his role as assistant director of the BOP’s Reentry Services Division. Dr. Thomas R. Kane, as part of Barr’s announcement, was appointed deputy director of the BOP.
Lamine N’Diaye, the warden of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, the facility where Epstein was being held, has also been temporarily reassigned, according to the Department of Justice. In addition, the two guards assigned to watch Epstein at his unit have been placed on administrative leave.
Lindsay called the staffing changes at the agency “not uncommon at all.”
“Anytime a staff member engages in alleged misconduct, it is not uncommon for them to be placed on some type of administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation,” he said, referring to the two guards.
“With respect to the reassignment of the warden, that’s also not totally uncommon,” he said. “It doesn’t happen very often in the federal system, but whenever there’s a catastrophic failure in terms of an event or leadership, typically within the BOP, the agency’s leadership will make the decision to remove that individual from the facility to ensure impartiality during the course of an investigation.”
He said the BOP is making sure the warden isn’t attempting to influence anybody and “therefore impede the investigation.”
“None of this really is unusual,” he said.
Epstein was apparently taken off suicide watch in late July at the request of his attorneys, unidentified sources told The Wall Street Journal. The financier had been meeting with his lawyers for up to 12 hours a day, one of those sources told the newspaper.
Lindsay said that with respect to Epstein’s case, the agency should have kept him under suicide watch. In July, weeks before his death, Epstein was reportedly found injured and semi-conscious in his prison cell, with marks on his neck.
“I was just utterly shocked he had been removed from suicide watch,” Linsday said. “There are a multitude of factors, but with respect to this specific case, there were just so many red flags. … He should have been left on suicide watch.”
The two guards watching Epstein were reportedly working overtime in order to make up for staffing shortages, and one of them had worked a fifth straight day of overtime, an unnamed source told The Associated Press. The guards also failed to follow protocol in the lead-up to Epstein’s death and didn’t check on him when they were supposed to.
“To make up for that shortfall, the agency will try to save money,” Lindsay said. “They will extrapolate people from other disciplines. They will take five staff members and then plug them in behind the correctional officer positions and use them as correctional officers.”
“What the agency will tell you is everybody is a correctional worker first within the BOP, so any of these people can do the correctional officer job. While in theory, that’s true, we all have certain basic training when we enter the agency—you’re just not going to be as effective.”
Media reports have said there was no surveillance video of Epstein inside his cell, only outside of it. Lindsay said this was normal.
“At least in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, they typically do not have cameras trained on the inside of a cell,” he said.
If Epstein had been kept on suicide watch, he would have been under “direct and constant supervision” rather than being checked-up on every 15 minutes, Lindsay said. He also said there would have been a trained observer right outside his cell.
“Suicide by hanging in jails is not uncommon at all,” he said. “Unfortunately, the agency failed to provide leadership at the facility.”