Then-acting Bureau of Prisons Director Hugh Hurwitz speaks during a July news conference at the Justice Department on implementation of the First Step Act.

Then-acting Bureau of Prisons Director Hugh Hurwitz speaks during a July news conference at the Justice Department on implementation of the First Step Act. Susan Walsh/AP

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Attorney General Orders Reassignment of Acting Bureau of Prisons Director 

Move comes in the aftermath of financier Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide at a Manhattan federal correctional facility.   

Attorney General William Barr ordered the removal of acting Bureau of Prisons director Hugh Hurwitz from his position on Monday in the aftermath of financier and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide. 

Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, agency director from 1992-1993, was tapped to be the acting director. In a press release, Barr thanked Hurwitz for his service and said he will become assistant director of the Bureau of Prision’s Reentry Services Division. “He will work closely with me in overseeing the implementation of one of the department’s highest priorities, the First Step Act,” Barr stated. Barr’s press release does not explicitly mention Epstein. 

Last week the attorney general criticized the Bureau of Prisons for letting Epstein commit sucide under its watch. “I was appalled, indeed the entire department was, and frankly angry, at the [Metropolitan Correctional Center]’s inability to secure this prisoner,” Barr said last week at a Fraternal Order of Police conference in Louisiana. He promised the Justice Department would hold those responsible for Epstein’s death accountable.  

Epstein had been on suicide watch, but taken off it less than a week before his death and placed in a cell alone. Despite some conspiracy theories, a medical examiner confirmed on Friday that Epstein’s death was a suicide. 

Understaffing has been a problem at the Bureau of Prisons for years, including at the New York facility where Esptein was. Eric Young, president of the American Federation of Government Employees council that represents the bureau, told Government Executive, “I believe all our staff are entitled to due process” and that bureau employees “don’t deserve to be villainized before the investigation comes out.”  

The two staff members in charge of Epstein’s cell who fell asleep, failed to check on him for three hours and then tried to cover up their mistake are currently on leave. Also, Barr directed the Manhattan facility’s warden to resign temporarily, Axios reported. This is until investigations into Epstein’s death by the Justice Department and FBI are complete. Epstein was awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking.