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Barr appoints new federal prison chief on the heels of Jeffrey Epstein's mysterious death

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Following the death of billionaire and accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein while in federal custody, Attorney General William Barr announced a shakeup of leadership at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on Monday.

According to a Justice Department news release, Barr has named Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer as the new director of the bureau. Hawk Sawyer was the first female director of the BOP and was appointed by Barr during his first stint as Attorney General back in 1992. She remained at that position until 2003.

The news release also notes that the now-returning director received multiple awards during her previous tenure including the Attorney General's Award for Excellence in Management in 1992, two Presidential Rank Awards for Meritorious Service in 1994 and 2000, and the Presidential Distinguished Executive Award in 1997.

Barr also named Dr. Thomas R. Kane, who has previously served as BOP chief of staff, assistant director, deputy director and acting director under four previous attorneys general, to serve as BOP deputy director, the release says.

"Under Dr. Hawk Sawyer's previous tenure at the Bureau, she led the agency with excellence, innovation, and efficiency, receiving numerous awards for her outstanding leadership, " Barr said in a statement. "During this critical juncture, I am confident Dr. Hawk Sawyer and Dr. Kane will lead BOP with the competence, skill, and resourcefulness they have embodied throughout their government careers."

Barr also thanked outgoing acting director Hugh Hurwitz, "for his dedication and service to the Bureau over the last fifteen months." The statement says that Hurwitz has been asked to return to his previous role in the BOP's Reentry Services Division, where one of his primary tasks will be overseeing the implementation of the First Step Act — 2018's big criminal justice bill.

Epstein, a 66-year-old financier accused of child sex trafficking, was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell earlier this month. While the neither the press release nor Barr's statement mention Epstein by name, the shakeup comes after Barr vowed to address how a high-priority inmate like Epstein could have died in federal custody.

Last week, Barr said that he was "appalled — indeed, the entire department was — and frankly angry, to learn of the [prison's] failure to adequately secure this prisoner."

He also vowed that his team "will get to the bottom of what happened at the [prison] and we will hold people accountable for this failure."

The day after those remarks, Barr reassigned the warden of the prison where Epstein was held.

While Epstein's death was recently ruled a suicide, there's still a great deal of mystery surrounding the matter. There is no footage of what happened to the prisoner, law enforcement officials told the New York Post.

Also, a new report notes that Epstein's cellmate was transferred to another part of the prison before Epstein's death. Law enforcement also said that the guards assigned to Epstein supposedly fell asleep and didn't check on him for three hours. Furthermore, an autopsy performed last week found neck fractures that are more commonly found in homicides than suicides.

One last thing…
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