Millions of Americans were stunned by accused serial sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged suicide in the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Aug. 9.
Conspiracy theories flew on social media from Americans who could not bear the notion that U.S. jails are poorly run and that Epstein could have committed suicide.
News reports have said prison guards may have been asleep during their shift, failed to check on Epstein for hours and then falsified their time logs.
Jeanne Theoharis, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College who has written about the MCC, Metropolitan Correctional Center, shared some of the jail’s sordid history — long before Epstein — with Democracy Now:
MCC is a federal pretrial facility. It holds people awaiting trial in the Southern District of New York. It is run, as you said, by the Bureau of Prisons, that is underneath the Department of Justice.
Conditions at MCC have been horrifying for years. And in fact, my very first time on Democracy Now! a decade ago, we talked about conditions at MCC then. As we talked about then, as journalist Aviva Stahl wrote about in a searing exposé last year, conditions there are dirty.
The facility is decrepit. It’s vermin-infested. Things break. So, sometimes elevators break, and lawyers can’t visit their clients. Stahl reported how often the sewage system breaks...
I mean, in many ways, it is hard, and I think it has been hard for people to wrap their heads around a federal jail in Lower Manhattan, on Wall Street — right? — with conditions that seem akin to a Third World dictatorship. Right? Dirty, too hot and too cold, fruit flies, mice, extreme isolation in parts of MCC...
For those of us who have studied kind of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, it is not unusual. The kind of lack of mental healthcare, the kinds of conditions that we’ve found, we’ve now heard about with Mr. Epstein. Insufficient mental healthcare. So, for instance, there is only one psychiatrist that serves both MCC and the sister facility in Brooklyn called the Metropolitan Detention Center, that we had heard about this winter. One psychiatrist...
That he was put in solitary confinement after perhaps trying to kill himself is not — it should be rare. It should not be happening. But it’s not surprising in terms of the way that the Federal Bureau of Prisons often — like, what happens in these federal facilities and the kind of lack of sustained, serious sort of attention to people who might be showing suicidal tendencies, who might be having mental health issues.
Studies show that suicide is higher in jails than in prisons. There have certainly been suicides in federal facilities, so much so that in 2012, in an absurd turn of events, the director of prisons, after a spate of suicides in federal facilities, wrote a letter to every inmate telling them not to lose hope. Again, an absurd way to deal with mental healthcare in the federal system.
(Source: Democracy Now)