Newly obtained documents reveal the details of Jeffrey Epstein’s last days in a Manhattan jail before his death by suicide two weeks later.
According to records obtained by The Associated Press, Epstein experienced agitation and sleeplessness in his jail cell, with his hands covering his ears to block out the sound of a continuously running toilet. The disgraced financier struggled to adapt to life behind bars following his arrest on federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges in July 2019.
Epstein had been placed under psychological observation after a previous suicide attempt, but he insisted he was not suicidal during interactions with a jail psychologist. Despite a 31-hour stint on suicide watch, Epstein claimed to have a “wonderful life” and expressed no intention to end it.
On August 10, 2019, Epstein was found dead. The AP has obtained over 4,000 pages of documents related to his death from the federal Bureau of Prisons, providing a comprehensive account of Epstein’s detention, his suicide, and the subsequent chaos that ensued.
These records debunk various conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s death, highlighting the significant failings within the Bureau of Prisons, including staffing shortages and lapses in protocols, that contributed to his demise.
The documents shed light on the agency’s inadequate response following Epstein’s discovery unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Emails reveal a prosecutor’s frustration with the Bureau of Prisons’ lack of information and their premature release of public press releases before providing essential details to Epstein’s attorneys and family.
Additionally, the documents reveal Epstein’s behavior during his time in jail, including his attempt to correspond through mail with Larry Nassar, the convicted U.S. gymnastics team doctor responsible for sexually abusing numerous athletes.
These newly released records offer valuable insights into the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s detention, suicide, and the subsequent handling of the case by the Bureau of Prisons.
Epstein’s letter to Nassar was found returned to sender in the jail’s mail room weeks after Epstein’s death. “It appeared he mailed it out and it was returned back to him,” the investigator who found the letter told a prison official by email. “I am not sure if I should open it or should we hand it over to anyone?”
The letter itself was not included among the documents turned over to the AP.
On the night before his death, Jeffrey Epstein interrupted a meeting with his lawyers to make a phone call to his family, as stated in a memo from a unit manager. Interestingly, Epstein claimed to be calling his mother, who had passed away 15 years prior.
Epstein’s suicide brought significant attention to the Bureau of Prisons, prompting the closure of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in 2021. The incident also triggered an investigation by the AP, uncovering previously undisclosed issues within the agency. As the largest department within the Justice Department, employing over 30,000 individuals, housing 158,000 inmates, and operating with an $8 billion annual budget, the Bureau of Prisons faced heightened scrutiny.
An internal memo, lacking a specific date but circulated after Epstein’s death, attributed the problems at the jail to severe staff shortages, inadequate training, and a lack of proper follow-up and oversight. The memo outlined corrective measures implemented by the Bureau of Prisons in response to the failures exposed by Epstein’s suicide, including the requirement for supervisors to review surveillance footage to ensure officers were conducting the necessary cell checks.
Epstein’s attorney, Martin Weinberg, condemned the conditions experienced by detainees at the facility, describing them as “medieval” and asserting that no American defendant should have been subjected to such confinement. The revelations surrounding Epstein’s death and the subsequent investigation have shed light on the systemic issues within the Bureau of Prisons, prompting calls for reforms to address the deficiencies and improve the overall conditions for inmates.
“It’s sad, it’s tragic, that it took this kind of event to finally cause the Bureau of Prisons to close this regrettable institution,” Weinberg said Thursday in a phone interview.
Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, the guards responsible for overseeing Jeffrey Epstein on the night of his suicide, were charged with falsifying prison records to create the impression that they had conducted required checks prior to Epstein’s lifeless body being discovered. On that fateful night, Epstein’s cellmate did not return after a court hearing, and prison officials failed to assign another inmate to share the cell with him, leaving Epstein alone.
According to prosecutors, Noel and Thomas were sitting at their desks just 15 feet away from Epstein’s cell but neglected to perform the mandatory rounds every 30 minutes. Instead, they allegedly engaged in online shopping for furniture and motorcycles and wandered around the unit’s common area. The indictment revealed that both guards appeared to have been asleep for a period of two hours. While Noel and Thomas admitted to falsifying the log entries, they struck a deal with federal prosecutors that spared them from serving prison time. Redacted copies of some of the log entries were included in the recently released documents.
The investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general into the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death is still ongoing.
Upon his arrival at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on July 6, 2019, Epstein spent 22 hours in the jail’s general population before being transferred to the special housing unit. This move was prompted by the extensive media coverage and the heightened awareness of his notoriety among the inmate population. Epstein expressed displeasure at having to wear an orange jumpsuit, which was provided to inmates in the special housing unit, and complained about being treated like a “bad guy” despite his good behavior behind bars. He requested a brown uniform for his frequent meetings with his lawyers.
During the initial health screening, Epstein disclosed that he had engaged in sexual relationships with more than ten women in the previous five years. Medical records revealed that he suffered from sleep apnea, constipation, hypertension, lower back pain, and prediabetes. Additionally, Epstein had previously received treatment for chlamydia.
According to the records, Epstein made some efforts to adjust to his environment while in jail. He requested a Kosher meal and expressed his desire, through his lawyer, to exercise outdoors. Just two days before his death, Epstein made a purchase of $73.85 from the prison commissary, which included an AM/FM radio and headphones. At the time of his death, he had $566 remaining in his account.
Epstein’s mental state deteriorated after a judge denied him bail on July 18, 2019, which meant he would remain incarcerated until his trial and potentially face a lengthy prison sentence of up to 45 years if convicted. Four days after the bail denial, Epstein was discovered on the floor of his cell with a bedsheet wrapped around his neck.
Although Epstein survived the incident, he did not require hospitalization. He was subsequently placed on suicide watch and later placed under psychiatric observation. Logs maintained by jail officers noted that they observed Epstein “sitting at the edge of the bed, lost in thought” and “sitting with his head against the wall.”
Epstein expressed frustration with the noise of the jail and his lack of sleep. His first few weeks at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Epstein didn’t have his sleep apnea breathing apparatus he used. Then, the toilet in his cell started acting up.
“He was still left in the same cell with a broken toilet,” the jail’s chief psychologist wrote in a email the next day. “Please move him to the cell next door when he returns from legal as the toilet still does not work.”
The day before Epstein ended his life, a federal judge unsealed about 2,000 pages of documents in a sexual abuse lawsuit against him. That development, prison officials observed, further eroded Epstein’s previous elevated status.
That, combined with a lack of significant interpersonal connections and “the idea of potentially spending his life in prison were likely factors contributing to Mr. Epstein’s suicide,” officials wrote.