The Justice Department said Thursday it will temporarily close the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan where convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in 2019. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 27 (UPI) -- The Justice Department said the jail where convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in 2019 will be temporarily closed after it came under scrutiny and criticism following the billionaire's death.
A Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement that the federal Bureau of Prisons will close the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan for an indeterminate amount of time after it had "assessed steps necessary to improve conditions" at the facility, The Washington Post reported.
"In an effort to address the issues at MCC NY as quickly and efficiently as possible, the department has decided to close the MCC, at least temporarily, until those issues have been resolved," the department spokesperson said. "Planning for the deactivation is under way, and we will have more updates as that process continues."
The announcement came less than a month after the Justice Department said Lisa Monaco, deputy attorney general, would be visiting the facility "to get a first-hand look at its operations and infrastructure given ongoing concerns."
"She plans further meetings about the facility after her return to Washington," the department said.
Conditions at the facility, which have been derided by prison right advocates, gained widespread attention following Epstein's death there in August 2019.
In the wake of his death, the jail's warden was reassigned and two correctional officers on duty that night were charged for altering forms that recorded the inmate headcount and for sleeping and surfing the Internet instead of performing the duties of their job. They both agreed to plea deals in May.
Epstein was being held at the facility on charges of sex trafficking minors in the early 2000s.
David E. Patton with the Federal Defenders of New York welcomed the news of its closure in a statement reported by The New York Times, saying its many problems needed to be addressed.
"The MCC has been a longstanding disgrace," he said. "It's cramped, dark and unsanitary. The building is falling apart. Chronic shortages of medical staff mean that people suffer for long periods of time when they have urgent medical issues."
The facility currently houses 263 inmates, according to its website. Where they will be relocated to is not yet known.