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Did the justice system fail Jeffrey Epstein?

Millionaire mogul Jeffrey Epstein was famously locked up in jail for sexually abusing dozens of underage girls. However, he never stood trial for his crimes because he committed suicide August 10 by hanging himself in the cell of a Manhattan federal jail. Despite a previous suicide attempt on July 23, his guards (who now face charges) did not check on him. He was denied bail because he was deemed to be a menace to society, and he died before facing a trial that would have provided a sense of justice to the victims, but in many ways, the justice system let him down.

Judge calls for reform

Many believe that the justice system failed in not convicting this rich white man sooner. But money and high-profile friends had mostly kept him free (he served 13 months beginning in 2008 for sex crimes) until the evidence of ongoing criminal behavior was overwhelming. The judge now calls for a reform of the justice system to protect inmates by providing safer living conditions in prison. Prisons are found to be

  • Chronically understaffed
  • Providing unsafe living conditions
  • Allowing gang activity
  • Allowing violence
  • Allowing racial tension
  • Doing little about the prevalence of drugs and other contraband

Rehabilitation not just incarceration

Violent criminals (including Epstein) should not be allowed to go free, but they can be rehabilitated. There are many services that our prison system can provide to the general population to help turn their lives around and have a meaningful positive impact on society. This involves:

  • Providing effective mental health and drug counseling
  • Providing inmates with life skills

Finding a better way

There is no way to tell if Epstein’s life would have ended differently if the criminal justice system had provided some of the above services, during his previous incarceration. Plus, he certainly had the means to pay for his own treatment. Nevertheless, indifference to the needs of inmates leads to countless other examples now and in the future of people failed by the prison system.