Justice Department to close NYC jail that housed Jeffrey Epstein

The New York City jail where accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was held before his death is closing, the Department of Justice confirmed to CBS News on Thursday. The jail has faced scrutiny since Epstein died by suicide there in August 2019.

The DOJ is closing the jail to ensure “every facility in the federal prison system is not only safe and secure, but also provides people in custody with the resources and programs they need to make a successful return to society after they have served their time,” a spokesperson for the department told CBS News in a statement. 

“In an effort to address the issues at MCC NY as quickly and efficiently as possible, the Department has decided to close the MCC, at least temporarily, until those issues have been resolved,” the spokesperson said. They did not identify the specific issues the department hopes to address. 

It is not clear where the inmates will be housed in the meantime.

Deputy attorney general Lisa O. Monaco visited the jail several weeks ago to observe the jail’s operations, according to the New York Times, which first reported that the DOJ is closing the jail.

When Epstein died, then-Attorney General William Barr said officials uncovered “serious irregularities” at the jail. The Justice Department announced days later that the warden of the jail had since been reassigned and two prison staffers were placed on administrative leave. The staffers were later charged with falsifying records, but did not serve jail time, The Associated Press reported.

Other complaints surfaced in March of last year when employees said operations had not changed despite the increased risk of contracting the coronavirus. Employees, who spoke with CBS News anonymously for fear of professional reprisal, said the virus exacerbated staffing problems and estimated the facility was operating with less than half its usual number of correctional officers.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email info@nami.org.