In the immediate aftermath of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s death, Attorney General William Barr noted a number of “irregularities” at the federal facility where Epstein had been held.
Vowing to address the problems immediately, Barr began directly at the top by removing the director of the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Barr appoints new BOP director
In an August 19 news release from the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs, it was announced that Barr had appointed Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer to be the new director of the federal Bureau of Prisons. The attorney general also announced that Dr. Thomas Kane would be appointed as the deputy director of the BOP, essentially to serve as Sawyer’s second-in-command.
The appointment of Sawyer meant that the man she replaced — BOP Acting Director Hugh Hurwitz — was out of a job.
Rather than fire him, however, Barr essentially demoted him to the position he had previously held before being named as acting director. Hurwitz was reassigned to be the assistant director of the BOP’s Reentry Services Division, where he will oversee federal programs dealing with the release of inmates back into society.
Interestingly, Sawyer previously served as BOP director from 1992 to 2003. In fact, it was Barr himself, who previously served as attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush, who had initially appointed Sawyer to that role more than 25 years ago.
Barr praises new appointees
In the release, Barr said, “I am pleased to welcome back Dr. Hawk Sawyer as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. 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.”
“I am also pleased to announce Dr. Thomas R. Kane as the Deputy Director of BOP,” he continued. “Dr. Kane served in the Bureau for over thirty years under four Attorneys General and is known for his expertise and proficiency in prison management and organization.”
“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 added, as well as a nod of appreciation for Hurwitz and his service, despite it having been proven to be less than acceptable in terms of upheld standards.
Warden reassigned, guards placed on leave
In addition to those changes in leadership at BOP, Vice News reported that Barr had also ordered that the warden in charge of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City be reassigned to a separate regional office.
Furthermore, the two jail staffers on duty the night of Epstein’s reported suicide were ordered by Barr to be placed on paid leave pending further investigation of the details of the incident.
Barr is, by all accounts, something of a stickler for adherence to proper protocol and rules, and that applies to the Bureau of Prisons as much as any other division. His quick action in holding leadership accountable for failures should serve as a clear message to the rest of the Justice Department.