Senator questions agencies on suicide prevention, response after Epstein’s death in federal custody

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr and heads of other federal agencies Tuesday pressing them for answers on how federal agencies handle in-custody suicide prevention.

Leahy wrote that the in-custody death of financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, which has been ruled a suicide, “raise[s] a number of pressing questions about inmate and detainee suicide prevention and protocols at federal facilities.”

In the letter addressed to Barr and the heads of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Leahy asked for answers on the number of attempted and completed suicides by federal inmates and detainees in the last five fiscal years.

Leahy also requested information on whether the Justice Department has published complete data on suicide attempts and completions and why it has not published or released its annual Deaths in Custody data since 2016, as well as what improvements, if any, it has made to training and guidance on suicide prevention in the last five years.

The Vermont senator’s letter also asks for information on the number of filled and vacant mental health positions in federal facilities and how many dom of Information Act requests dealing with inmate suicides the agencies has received in the last five years.

Barr has previously claimed that “serious irregularities” surrounded Epstein’s death at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in August. The Manhattan prison is run by the federal Bureau of Prisons.

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