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Jeffrey Epstein's death raises questions about prison protocols

August 12, 2019 08:48 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- There are growing questions about the death of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

On Monday, Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department has already found "serious irregularities" at the federal jail where Jeffrey Epstein took his own life over the weekend.

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Epstein died Saturday in what prison officials said was an "apparent suicide"

He was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. This raises questions about the prison protocols used when a person is on suicide watch or recently removed from suicide watch.

News10NBC wanted to know more about the decision to place someone on suicide watch, so we turned to our county jail. 

"We always err on the side of caution," said Superintendent Matt VanDuzee. "We would rather put someone under constant observation who doesn't need to be, than the other way around."

VanDuzee is a 29-year veteran of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. He has been in charge of the Monroe County Jail since December.

He says the state has specific safety protocols for people who may be suicidal. He says Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter's protocols are stricter than the state's protocols. 

VanDuzee says three main reasons would put a person under what's called "constant supervision." Either, the person threatens suicide or a family member makes a request. 

"Another one would be if it's an extremely high profile case, that's embarrassing or public," said VanDuzee, "Something to that extent, we'll do it anyway and let the mental health folks deal with the person and get their thoughts on it."

VanDuzee says that inmate would be placed in a cell alone with a see-through door. They would also receive special bedding and eating utensils and most importantly, there is a guard outside.

"...We'll actually have someone physically watching you 24 hours a day," he said.

NBC News reports multiple people familiar with the investigation said Epstein was taken off of suicide watch and was back in a regular cell. VanDuzee says that's not what happens in Monroe County.

"We'll never just put you in the population after that. We'll put you in a spot where we'll have increased supervision or we'll put you in an area that has other folks that just came off constant supervision with another person watching. So their's all kind of steps and we would have to be confident that there wouldn't be issues before we put you back in the population."

VanDuzee says mental health professionals are a part of the conversation and help guide jail officials. 

Credits

Lynette Adams

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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