NYC Closing Jail Where Jeffrey Epstein Died, Gotti, Madoff, El Chapo Were Held

Authorities plan to close a federal jail in New York City where convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein died, and a number of high-profile criminals were held, to address problems that were highlighted after the disgraced financier's suicide there two years ago.

The Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) — one of the most secure jails in America — in Lower Manhattan will be closed at least temporarily to resolve safety and infrastructure issues, The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing the Justice Department.

The jail typically houses high-profile fraudsters, gangsters and murderers while they await trial. Prison officials told the newspaper that they currently house 233 inmates, lower than the maximum capacity of 600. Most of the inmates are expected to be transferred to a federal jail in Brooklyn.

The MCC has long been criticized by prisoners for its squalid conditions. There have been complaints about the facility's filth, large rats, cruel staff, crumbling infrastructure and substandard medical care. Newsweek has contacted the MCC for comment on the allegations and the closure plans.

The jail is best known for being the place where Epstein, who was facing sex trafficking charges, was found hanging dead in his cell in August 2019, an incident that was ruled a suicide. Two MCC guards were later accused of napping and surfing the internet instead of regularly checking in on Epstein on the night before he was found dead.

The MCC has been the pretrial base for many notorious suspects prosecuted by the U.S. government in Manhattan, including Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera, Gambino crime family bosses John Gotti and Jackie D'Amico, and Ponzi scheme fraudster Bernard Madoff.

Terrorists Omar Abdel Rahman and Ramzi Yousef, who were convicted of conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, were also based there.

Loera, who is famous for his prison escapes, was held at the MCC during his trial in federal court in Brooklyn, which ended in his conviction in 2019.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said in a written statement on Thursday that the department was "committed to ensuring that every facility in the federal prison system is not only safe and secure, but also provides people in custody with the resources and programs they need to make a successful return to society after they have served their time."

The department did not say when the jail would be closed, but that statement said the federal Bureau of Prisons had "assessed steps necessary to improve conditions" at the M.C.C., and to address them "as quickly and efficiently as possible." The statement added that the department had decided to close the jail, "at least temporarily, until those issues have been resolved."

David E. Patton, the attorney in chief at Federal Defenders of New York, which represents thousands of defendants in the city, told The New York Times that addressing the facility's problems was overdue.

"The M.C.C. has been a longstanding disgrace," Patton 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."

Two Prison Guards Charged With Falsifying Records
The Metropolitan Correctional Center, which is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, stands in lower Manhattan on November 19, 2019 in New York City. The Justice Department has announced that the jail will close to improve conditions in the facility. Spencer Platt/Getty Images