Loaded firearm, narcotics found in New York Federal Prison housing unit
NEW YORK — Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officials found a loaded firearm Thursday inside a housing unit at the federal prison in New York, the agency said. This is the same prison where Jeffrey Epstein killed himself last summer.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center has been on modified operations status since last week when staff received a tip that there might be a firearm in the facility. BOP personnel launched what it called a comprehensive search recovering contraband including cell phones, narcotics and home-made weapons, according to a BOP press release issued Thursday.
The investigation has led to complaints from inmates, who have described worsened conditions at the prison in the last week to their attorneys.
They have not been provided with hot food for several consecutive days and have had to wash their laundry in their showers, sinks and toilets, David Patton, the attorney-in-chief of Federal Defenders of New York, told CNN. Others have reported not being allowed to shower and being forced to use the toilet in the company of their cellmate, Patton added.
Inside inmate complaints
New York public defenders from Patton’s Legal Aid Society division were not permitted to visit with their clients in the facility for eight consecutive days, Patton said.
Friday was the first time since the investigation began that Patton said his staff lawyers were permitted to visit with some clients. Attorneys over the last week had received daily email notifications from BOP legal representation announcing visitations were canceled.
Some inmates were transferred to other facilities, including one in Otisville New York nearly two hours from Manhattan, and their court proceedings were canceled because of this, Patton said.
The Bureau of Prisons declined to confirm this. The BOP does not discuss inmate movement for safety and security reasons, BOP spokesperson Nancy Ayers told CNN.
Patton said he believes not giving the inmates access to their attorneys is a violation of the sixth amendment right to counsel.
“I completely respect and understand their need to have a safe secure environment. I want that,” he said. “I want that for my clients and I want that for my attorneys who are visiting there.”
The BOP refutes that conditions have worsened amid the investigation and said that BOP personnel have made efforts to ensure defendants continued to meet court deadlines, Ayers told CNN.
“With respect to the day-to-day operations of the facility, inmates in special housing have remained on a regular schedule for showers and all other inmates are on a periodic rotation schedule for showers. The inmate population has been receiving hot meals regularly. All inmates have access to medical care and appointments and medical staff continue normal rounds on every floor. It is expected that visitation from inmates’ families and friends may resume later next week, or as soon as possible,” Ayers said.
Prison under a microscope
BOP officials met on Wednesday to provide an update on the investigation into the loaded firearm to stakeholders, including the Chief Judge of the Southern District of New York, the US Attorney’s Office, the US Probation Office, the US Marshals Service and the Federal Public Defender’s Office, Ayers told CNN.
The BOP and the MCC, which has housed a number of high-profile prisoners including attorney Michael Avenatti, have been under the microscope since Epstein’s death.
Attorney General William P. Barr named another new Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in late February. Barr put new senior leadership in place in the days after Epstein was found unconscious while repercussions of the event were unfolding and the investigation continued.
Barr ordered the former warden at the MCC in Manhattan to be temporarily moved to a regional office in Philadelphia after Epstein’s death. Barr said in August that there were “serious irregularities” at the Manhattan prison.
Epstein’s suicide brought attention to what the prison’s employee union has said are chronically overworked and short-staffed conditions at the MCC, including forced overtime and officers, reassigned to guard duty.
Two BOP guards have pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges of conspiracy and filing false records in connection with their actions the night Epstein died in prison.
The warden, Lamine N’diaye has since been reassigned to a leadership position in a large low-security prison in Burlington County, New Jersey.