A Horrifying Death in a Horrifying Jail
August 13, 2019

“Jeffrey Epstein’s death by apparent suicide at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Saturday morning has led both the FBI and the Department of Justice’s inspector general to launch investigations. Questions have been raised about why Epstein was apparently removed from suicide watch just weeks after he’d been found semiconscious with marks on his neck. While it’s worth figuring out why and how that decision was made, the truth is we already have a very good idea why Epstein is dead.”

“Solitary confinement at MCC, as described by those who have survived it, is especially hellish. In the Special Housing Unit where Epstein was held, the fluorescent lights are kept on 23 or 24 hours a day, prisoners are prohibited from calling out to each other, and the cell windows are frosted to prevent any glimpse of the outside world.”

“The segregated units are horrifying and inhumane,” David Patton, the executive director of Federal Defenders of New York, told the New York Times in 2017. “If you wanted to intentionally design a place to drive people mad, you’d be hard pressed to do better.”

“Facilities, like MCC, that are run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons tend to be among the nation’s most corrupt and violent institutions. As others have noted, Epstein is not the first high-profile federal prisoner to die in the past year. Boston gangster Whitey Bulger was beaten to death in a federal prison in October.”

“We don’t need an investigation to tell us jails and prisons are often lawless, violent hellholes. The question now is: Do we care? Maybe most Americans believe that someone, like Epstein, who’s accused of horrific sex crimes, deserves to die. Maybe most Americans believe that the other people incarcerated in MCC—terrorism suspects, white-collar criminals, kids indicted in federal gang sweeps—deserve whatever they get. Or maybe most Americans believe that what happens in MCC and other federal facilities doesn’t reflect the kind of society we want to be. Before we make that judgment call, we have to be willing to look inside our jails and prisons, and we have to keep on looking until we truly reckon with the barbarism we’re all too eager to disregard.”


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