So, according to news reports, Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide last night . . . while on suicide watch in prison.
Folks, I served as a Federal prison chaplain. I was trained in exactly the same way as a corrections officer, alongside them in the same training institution, because there would be times when I'd have to function as one. I know more than a little about suicide watches, and I've been exposed to my fair share of them. You can read a little about them in this Slate article, but there's a lot more to them than that.
Basically, on suicide watch, everything and anything that can be used for self-harm is taken away from the inmate, even his clothes. No belt. No shoelaces. No razor. Only thin, brittle plastic eating utensils are provided, that can't be sharpened enough to cut human flesh, and aren't strong enough to be used as stabbing weapons. The inmate may be issued an anti-suicide smock and an anti-suicide blanket. The list is endless. If the risk is considered serious enough, the inmate may be placed in a straitjacket, and/or may be under very frequent (every 15 minutes) visitation by a correction officer or nurse, or even permanent guard (i.e. someone in the room with him/her at all times). Suffice it to say, if the suicide watch is properly and effectively administered, it's no longer possible for the inmate to commit suicide, even if he/she wants to.
Now we're expected to believe that a person:
- accused of the most heinous offenses;
- who was in a position to implicate any number of high-placed persons in politics, entertainment and royalty, in many countries, if he lived to provide evidence - including individuals who have, in the past, displayed a certain ruthlessness in dealing with other potential "embarrassments" of that sort;
- who had (allegedly) attempted to commit suicide and/or had been injured previously while in custody;
- who had been placed on suicide watch, which (in the light of the earlier incident) should have been rigorous and intensive;
The only way in which Jeffrey Epstein could have committed suicide is if the suicide watch under which he'd been placed was so inept, so inefficient, so lax, that he was able to get around it. If that's the case, heads - multiple heads - need to roll at the prison where it happened, and in the senior administration of the corrections department(s) concerned. Such a high-profile prisoner would certainly - under normal circumstances - have warranted the most extreme precautions, both to protect him (and the information he could have provided) and to safeguard the ongoing judicial process. If that was not done, it was either because of an absolutely inexcusable breakdown of procedures, and failure to follow policy, in the department and institution . . . or because Epstein was allowed to kill himself. I'm sure certain individuals would have found that a very convenient "solution" to the issues he raised. They might even have "encouraged" him to do so.
(EDITED TO ADD: Later reports have indicated that Epstein may not have been on suicide watch at the time of his death. If correct, that's an even more damning indictment of the prison authorities. If an inmate has tried to kill himself already, you don't take him off suicide watch until you're sure the danger has diminished. That takes weeks, even months, of psychological counseling, observation, and so on - at least, it did during my prison service as chaplain. I don't believe it's possible to reach a determination so quickly that a suicide watch was no longer warranted. Who did so? When? For what reasons?)
There's also another possibility, one that no-one has yet publicly raised, but which I'm sure is at the back of everyone's mind; namely, that the "suicide" might not have been a "suicide" at all. God forbid that possibility - but I guaran-damn-tee you that a hell of a lot of people (including yours truly) are thinking about it.
This stinks to high heaven.
In the meantime, let us not forget that a human being is dead. Epstein may have been a criminal, a scumbag of the worst kind . . . but his soul has still to face the same Judge that I believe all of us must one day face. I won't deny him a prayer for mercy, because I'm a sinner, too, and I'm going to be in very great need of that mercy myself when my time comes. May Jeffrey Epstein receive whatever forgiveness is possible, in God's grace.