US Attorney General William Barr appointed Kathleen Hawk Sawyer to be the new director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons on 19 August following the resignation of Acting Director Hugh Hurwitz, the Justice Department reported. Sawyer has held the position in the past, having served at the post between 1992 and 2003, focusing her efforts on reducing recidivism and improving prisoners' opportunities after the end of their terms. She was awarded the Edmund Randolph Award for outstanding service in the Department of Justice in 2001.
While the resignation of Hurwitz, who was reassigned to the position of deputy in charge of the bureau's re-entry programmes, was not explicitly explained, Barr has earlier slammed the work of the staff at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York, which had failed to prevent the apparent suicide of Jeffery Epstein. Barr pointed to the "serious irregularities" in their work, something which was uncovered during a probe into the prisoner's death.
Epstein was a key defendant in a high-profile case of paedophilia and an underage sex trafficking scheme. The late 66-year-old financier was also close with numerous famous personalities and politicians. This fact spurred numerous conspiracy theories regarding Epstein's demise, suggesting that it could have been more than just a suicide, since his testimony could allegedly hurt powerful people who may have used the accused sex trafficker's services.
These theories were further fuelled by numerous media reports suggesting that the New York prison was heavily understaffed and that the guards were not checking up on Epstein as often as they should have been according to the rules. The financier’s apparent suicide comes weeks after making another such attempt, something that led to him being put on suicide watch. However, media reports suggest that the measure was lifted six days after being imposed.
The prison warden, Lamine N'Diaye, was reassigned to another position following the incident; meanwhile, the two guards who were supposed to check up on Epstein that day were placed on administrative leave. The two are suspected of falsifying log entries to cover up the lack of checks.