The Florida sheriff’s office that allowed Jeffrey Epstein to leave his jail cell almost daily and go to his office when he was supposed to be doing time back in 2008 — allegedly leading to the abuse of even more women — is now ending its work-release program for everyone.
Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who also called the shots when Epstein was jailed, has decided to discontinue the program except in circumstances approved by a judge, although his decision didn’t stem from a particular case or incident. The Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission initially recommended in a report earlier this month that the sheriff’s office give “serious consideration” to ending the program, which the commission said may provide little benefit, according to the Palm Beach Post. But a majority of the task force later recommended the program be maintained nonetheless, according to the Miami Herald.
The sheriff’s work-release program hasn’t accepted new prisoners since August, and the panel only reviewed a period between 2014 and 2019 when making its decision, suggesting Epstein’s case wasn’t a strong consideration, according to the Post. Some officials criticized the sheriff’s decision, noting that work-release programs are generally good for low-risk offenders.
“It’s unfortunate that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office work release program, which did a lot of good for many inmates and the community, has been shut down because of misadministration,” Florida State Sen. Lauren Book told the Herald Monday. “Serial sex predator Jeffrey Epstein should never have been allowed to participate in the program. That mistake is on the sheriff, not nonviolent inmates seeking to honestly rebuild their lives, earn modest wages, and contribute to their community.”
The program may continue still — or expand further — through another county office not overseen by the sheriff, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
The program was controversially afforded to Epstein when he was serving a 13-month sentence for two state prostitution charges in 2008, following a controversial plea deal that scrapped more serious sex trafficking charges on allegations that he was abusing dozens of teen girls at the time. Through the program, Epstein left jail about 12 hours a day, six days a week, so he could work out of his Palm Beach office. What he was actually working on still remains unclear, but he was accused of abusing at least one woman during that time outside of jail. Sheriff’s deputies still monitor prisoners when they’re on work-release.
Epstein also sometimes went to Home Depot for unclear reasons, and was once spotted walking alongside a road during his work-release, according to the Miami Herald.
Epstein was arrested in July on charges relating to a sex trafficking ring he allegedly operated between Palm Beach and New York City from 2002 to 2005. The 66-year-old pleaded not guilty. He killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell in August, before he could face trial. An investigation into his alleged abuses and his subsequent death has led to increased scrutiny of pretty much every legal process he touched, including the federal jail where he died by suicide in August, and the U.S. attorney’s decision to allow a cushy plea agreement in 2007.
Cover: This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry, shows Jeffrey Epstein. Federal prosecutors offered a plea deal to two correctional officers responsible for guarding Epstein on the night of his death, but the officers have declined the offer, people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP, File)