The gun was found at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) during a lockdown of the facility that was imposed after officials were tipped off about a smuggled weapon, the Associated Press (AP) reported. All inmates have been locked in their cells and have not been allowed to communicate with their lawyers during the lockdown. In addition, the jail, which houses about 700 inmates, has canceled all visitations since last week.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) confirmed to AP that a handgun was found in the correctional center. However, officials did not reveal any information on where the gun was found or how it was smuggled into the facility. In addition, three people familiar with the matter told AP that federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation over potential negligence by guards and smuggling of contraband to the MCC after they also found cellphones, narcotics and homemade weapons inside the jail. Given that all inmates and visitors are searched before going into the facility, officials are concerned over how such items made it inside.
“All of these items pose a significant threat to the safety and security of the facility as well as the public,” the BOP said in a statement to AP.
Investigators continued to search the jail Thursday night for more contraband, with the lockdown still in effect. Federal prosecutors have also notified the Justice Department’s inspector general and the FBI over the recent findings.
“The BOP is committed to the safety of staff, inmates and the public while continuing to ensure that those responsible for misconduct and criminal activity are held accountable,” the agency said.
Some defense attorneys have criticized the jail’s “modified operations,” as the BOP termed them, during the investigation.
“Sentencings are being delayed. Hearings are being delayed,” David Patton, executive director and chief attorney of the Federal Defenders of New York, told AP. “But the MCC acts as though it’s perfectly fine for them to just shut down the entire institution to look for contraband. It’s just not acceptable. They’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”
However, the agency said Thursday that some visits at the jail will resume Friday, with all visitations to resume by next week.
“The Bureau has been working closely with the stakeholders throughout this period to ensure those defendants with imminent court deadlines have the legal visits with their legal counsel as needed,” the BOP said in its statement to AP.
In addition, some lawyers have stated that inmates in certain units are being provided cold meals and denied showers during the lockdown. The BOP said that inmates are on a periodic shower rotation and have “access to medical care and appointments.”
Epstein was arrested in July 2019 on charges of running a sex trafficking network of minors. In August, Epstein was found dead in his cell, having apparently hung himself with a bed sheet while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking of minors after his bail appeal was declined.
The circumstances surrounding his death were very controversial as Epstein was put on suicide watch in mid-July after an unsuccessful suicide attempt, but was reportedly taken off suicide watch one week later.
An investigation into Epstein’s death later found that the guards responsible for checking on him were reportedly sleeping and browsing the internet when Epstein took his own life. However, in October, a pathologist hired by Epstein’s brother disputed the autopsy claims that the financier took his own life.