Mr. Lindsay said Mr. Epstein should not have been taken off suicide watch, even if the prison’s chief psychologist had determined it was safe to do so. With a high-profile inmate, the warden should have erred on the side of caution and kept him under close surveillance, separate from other inmates, Mr. Lindsay said.
“A psychologist is going to think one way, but a warden needs to think a different way,” he said. “You have to take the conservative, safe route and keep an individual like this on suicide watch.”
Mr. Lindsay pointed out that Mr. Epstein was also at risk to be attacked by other inmates because of the nature of the allegations against him. “In the subculture of prisons, it’s a badge of honor to take someone out like that,” he said.
Other former prison officials also questioned the prison’s decision to put Mr. Epstein on suicide watch for such a short period of time.
Though it is not uncommon for an inmate to be on suicide watch for less than a week, that is typically done in cases when an inmate receives bad news in court or from family — not soon after a suicide attempt, said Bob Hood, a former chief of internal affairs for the Bureau of Prisons.
In Mr. Epstein’s case, not only did he apparently attempt suicide on July 23, but humiliating information continued to be released to the public through news outlets, Mr. Hood said. That would normally have prompted prison officials to keep him under closer surveillance, not remove him from the 24-hour-a-day suicide watch, he said.
“Why he was taken off suicide watch is beyond me,” Mr. Hood said.
He added, “A man is dead. The Bureau of Prisons dropped the ball. Period.”
Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting.