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William Barr Is Shaking Things Up at the Bureau of Prisons After Jeffrey Epstein’s Death


After accused child sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein died behind bars at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, in what a medical examiner determined was a suicide, two guards were suspended and a warden was reassigned. U.S. Attorney General William Barr took things a step further on Monday, announcing that he was removing the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Hugh Hurwitz from that role.

Replacing Hurwitz will be Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, who served as BOP Director from 1992 to 2003. She was the first woman to lead the BOP. Barr was George H.W. Bush’s Attorney General from 1991 t0 1993. That wasn’t the only move Barr announced, however. Dr. Thomas R. Kane is the choice for Deputy Director of the BOP.

“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, “ Barr said in a statement 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 thirty 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. I would also like to thank Hugh Hurwitz,” Barr continued. “Acting Director of BOP, for his dedication and service to the Bureau over the last fifteen 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.”

The move was made after Barr expressed his anger and dismay that Epstein was not adequately secured (he was taken off of suicide watch) after a reported prior suicide attempt. Despite the medical examiner’s determination, the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death, which law enforcement experts called stunning, is being investigated by both the FBI and the DOJ’s Inspector General.

As the Associated Press reported, the on-duty prison guards that were working overtime failed to check on Epstein each half hour and may have falsified logs to indicate otherwise.

Hurwitz was previously appointed to his role by former AG Jeff Sessions.

[Images via Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.