By Kunle Adedoyin
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday disclosed that late financier Jeffrey Epstein was removed from suicide watch in July after being cleared by a psychologist.
The DOJ disclosed the detail in a letter to lawmakers after the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee demanded answers to a series of questions about Epstein’s death in federal custody in New York, as he awaited trial on sex trafficking and abuse charges.
Epstein was found dead at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan with New York City’s chief medical examiner determining that he killed himself.
Federal Lawmakers demanded answers over the death, wondering why Epstein was not being more closely observed after initially being placed on suicide watch in July when he was found with marks on his neck.
“With regard to Mr. Epstein, the Department can confirm that Mr. Epstein was placed on suicide watch in July. Mr. Epstein was later removed from suicide watch after being evaluated by a doctoral-level psychologist who determined that a suicide watch was no longer warranted,” Assistant Attorney General Boyd wrote in a letter to Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the Chairman and ranking member of the Judiciary panel.
The letter was dated Thursday and released by the DOJ on Friday.
Boyd was responding to a letter Nadler and Collins had sent the department with a list of 23 questions, including those regarding the agency’s suicide prevention policies.
Boyd clarified that all inmates are interviewed within 24 hours of arriving at a federal prison and that mental health treatment is provided regardless of an inmate’s custody placement, adding that psychologists are available during working hours and on call during nights.
Besides the questions over if Epstein should have been on suicide watch, reports have surfaced regarding abnormalities in how he was observed, including one saying guards in Epstein’s unit fell asleep and failed to check on him for roughly three hours during the time when he is believed to have hanged himself.
Barr said he was “appalled” and “angry” over the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death and directed the FBI and the Justice Department Inspector General to investigate the suicide.
“The Department and the Bureau [of Prisons] take seriously the responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all inmates in the custody of the Bureau,” Boyd wrote. “We are committed to working diligently to investigate this matter fully and the Department may be in a position to provide additional information at a later date as appropriate.”