Nydia Velazquez calls for full investigation of Metropolitan Correctional Center apart from Epstein suicide probe
The federal review of the apparent suicide by billionaire sex-trafficking suspect Jeffrey Epstein needs to be about more than how the wealthy pervert died, according to a letter to federal officials from Rep. Nydia Velazquez.
Velazquez (D-N.Y.), whose district includes the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan where Epstein was found over the weekend reportedly hanged by a bed sheet, wants a thorough review of shoddy practices at the massive lockup.
“Not only does Epstein’s suicide raise questions about how his custody was handled, but it hearkens back to a litany of previous problems we’ve seen at this facility," Velazquez told The News.
"I’m glad DOJ and FBI are looking into this most recent episode and all of us, including his victims, need to know how Epstein died," she added. "Still, I think what’s also needed is a comprehensive review of the culture and management problems at MCC.”
Velazquez’s letter, sent Tuesday afternoon, follows another sent by the House chairs of the Homeland Security Committee and the Judiciary Committee seeking details on how Epstein was handled, who made the decisions about his custody, and who knew about it.
But Velazquez is asking FBI Director Christopher Wray and Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz to probe the broader problems at the giant jail.
"I urge you to expand the scope of your inquiry to scrutinize the current professional culture at this facility," Velazquez said.
She specified taking a look at staffing levels that appear to have left someone who was a non-correctional staff member as one of two workers who were responsible for Epstein when he died. The facility is chronically understaffed, with the Bureau of Prisons offering $10,000 bonuses for guards to transfer there.
It also has a sordid recent history of conduct that Velazquez pointed to, including an officer who broke a prisoner’s cheek bone and eye socket, a guard who was sentenced to seven years for raping an inmate, a guard who is charged with trading sex with women inmates for food and makeup, and guards who tried to hide a prisoner’s blunt-force trauma death by saying he overdosed.
Authorities need to get to the bottom of Epstein's death, Velazquez said, but it also is "important that broader management problems pervading MCC, which may have enabled Mr. Epstein's suicide, be examined, rooted out and corrected."
The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that the warden was being transferred and that two staffers in the Special Housing Unit where Epstein was jailed were put on leave.
“While those steps are necessary in response to Mr. Epstein’s suicide, that does not change the fact that there should also be a top-down review of the entire professional culture, operating procedures and overall leadership,” she said.