Jeffrey Epstein’s jail conditions

Jeffrey Epstein faces a fairly long period in pre-trial detention period in jail, now that his request for bail and to be under house arrest has been denied. Since the crimes with which he is charged are so awful and the judge found that he is obviously both a flight risk and a potential danger to other people, the denial of bail is not unreasonable. I became curious about what kind of conditions he faces while facing trial since we know that even after his conviction of sex crimes in 2009 in Florida, he was only assigned to the local country jail and was allowed out six days a week to continue his business, whatever that was, returning to the jail only at night.

There was an interesting comment thread to a previous post about this topic so I looked it up and found this article that says that he is in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan, the same jail that previously housed Bernie Madoff, John Gotti, Jr., and Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and currently has Paul Manafort. One of the wings of the jail is called ’10 South’ and is apparently where El Chapo was for two years, and it looks like Epstein may be there.

One of Guzman’s lawyers, Jeffrey Lichtman, said he was astonished to see Epstein two days after his arrest wearing a jail-issued uniform in a holding cell next to a conference room on 10 South where lawyer meetings typically occur.

“There he was, sitting there, all alone,” Litchtman said. “This unit is completely isolating.” If Epstein is there full-time right now, “he won’t have any contact with others.”

Epstein, 66, probably has been assigned to a room no larger than 100 square feet equipped with only a bed, a toilet with an attached sink and a wedge of a desk,

If in fact he is still in 10 South — the special unit where alleged terrorists and other high-profile inmates are held, sometimes for their own protection — he is spending 23 hours a day confined to his cell and allowed out for one hour to exercise alone, said Sam Schmidt, a criminal defense lawyer in New York who’s represented al-Qaeda operatives who’ve been held there.

That one hour of daily recreation is in an indoor cage, and the privilege can be denied. Cell windows are frosted — the only fresh air comes in through a window in the cage — and inmates are strip-searched every time they go to court.

The US incarceration conditions can be incredibly brutal and inhumane, especially its use of solitary confinement. While Epstein is a despicable person, we have to be wary of wishing the worst of the current conditions on him. Instead we have to fight for better conditions for all inmates. We have to remember that it is always the poor and otherwise marginalized who get the worst treatment at the hands of the (in)justice system that uses the cases of horrible people like Epstein and El Chapo to gain public acceptance of these brutalizing conditions, which are then used against people like Layleen Polanco, an Afro-Latina transgender woman who was found dead in the notorious Rikers Island jail to which she was confined because she could not afford the $500 bail for her misdemeanor charge.

Prison and jail reform in the US is long overdue. The fact that improvements may benefit people like Epstein should not hold us back from demanding it.


  1. Matt G says

    I read an article about Denmark’s prison system. They have been CLOSING prisons in favor of other means of punishment and rehabilitation. Obviously their society has little racial diversity so it’s not clear to what extent their model could be copied.

  2. anat says

    Matt G, in what way does racial diversity impact the success rate of non-carceral modes of treatment? I can see why it reduces the chances such models get applied (as long as criminals are perceived to be mostly from among ‘those people’ fewer politicians care how they are treated).

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    ~1:05 Trump: “If people don’t want to fight for our country…”

    Remember that Trump avoided service in Viet Nam by having a podiatrist certify that he had “bone spurs” in his heels.

  4. Matt G says

    About the Danish prison philosophy:

    The rate of incarceration for different ethnic group in DK is about proportional to the population. In the US, for example, the rate for blacks is 5x their representation in the population. I don’t know about recidivism rates for different groups in DK. I think our punitive attitude would make application unlikely.

  5. consciousness razor says

    Matt G, this video (25:57) is worth watching (a TEDx talk, but not a bad one). The topic is basically our horrible prison system in the US, but ultimately the comparison is to the German system. I don’t know how similar they may be to Danish prisons.
    Anyway, the presenter (a lawyer) went there with a small group. I think it was probably in 2016, since the video was published in Jan 2017. He starts with a bunch of stats and explains some of the social problems in general, but later on (talking about his trip) you can see some pictures and get a sense of what they’re like.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    I wonder whether they take precautions in case Epstein, facing a life without (ahem) his customary pleasures, attempts suicide.

    Which in itself would grieve no one except his defen$e lawyers, but might deprive law enforcement of a high-value namer of major names.

  7. says

    @Pierce R Butler:

    it is standard procedure in many institutions to place on suicide watch nearly anyone who comes in at the beginning of a potentially long stay. I don’t know about this institution in particular, but yes. It’s likely that they’re following a pattern where the first few days are on suicide watch and then further SW depends on what they observe during the earlier time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *