Guards in Jeffrey Epstein's jail unit were working substantial overtime shifts, reports say

Jeffrey Epstein

Correctional officers who worked in a special unit inside the New York City jail that housed Jeffrey Epstein -- before his apparent suicide -- had worked extreme overtime shifts to compensate for staffing shortages, according to reports Sunday.

The Associated Press cited an unnamed source in a Sunday report that said the Metropolitan Correctional Center's Special Housing Unit was staffed with a single guard working a fifth straight day of overtime and another who was working mandatory overtime.

Epstein, 66, was found unconscious in his cell Saturday. He later was pronounced dead from an apparent suicide, raising questions as to how the wealthy financier might have been able to kill himself under the nose of staff in the high-security facility.

The correctional center did not immediately return Fox News' requests for comment.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Sunday performed an autopsy but didn't release a cause of death.

"Today, a medical examiner performed the autopsy of Jeffrey Epstein," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said. "The ME's determination is pending further information at this time. At the request of those representing the decedent, and with the awareness of the federal prosecutor, I allowed a private pathologist (Dr. Michael Baden) to observe the autopsy examination. This is routine practice."

"My office defers to the involved law enforcement agencies regarding other investigations around this death. Inquiries regarding the determination of the Chief Medical Examiner should be directed towards my office," the statement continued. In addition to his work as a forensic pathologist, Baden is a Fox News contributor.

The Justice Department was told Epstein would be monitored by a guard every half-hour and would be housed with a cellmate, an official with knowledge into the investigation told the AP.

The cellmate recently had been transferred, allowing Epstein to be housed alone, a violation of jail protocol, officials told The New York Times.

The well-connected multimillionaire was being held on child sex trafficking charges. Prosecutors said he sexually abused dozens of young girls in his New York and Florida residences between 2002 and 2005.

He pleaded not guilty and faced up to 45 years in prison. Epstein had been placed on suicide watch after he was found last month with bruising on his neck, but he was taken off the watch at the end of July.

Former jail warden Cameron Lindsay told the paper officials made a series of mistakes in Epstein's case. He said the warden at MCC shouldn't have taken him off suicide watch, even if the prison's chief psychologist had recommended doing so.

"A psychologist is going to think one way, but a warden needs to think a different way," he said. "You have to take the conservative, safe route and keep an individual like this on suicide watch."

Epstein's death came a day after 2,000 pages of documents were released related to a since-settled lawsuit against Epstein's ex-girlfriend by Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's accusers. The records contain graphic allegations against Epstein, as well as the transcript of a 2016 deposition in which he repeatedly refused to answer questions to avoid incriminating himself.

Attorney General William Barr called for an investigation into Epstein's death, saying it "raises serious questions that must be answered."

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote Saturday in a scathing letter to Barr that "heads must roll" after the incident.

"Every single person in the Justice Department — from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer — knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn't be allowed to die with him," Sasse wrote.

Before his legal troubles, Epstein led a life of extraordinary luxury that drew powerful people into his orbit. He socialized with princes and presidents and lived on a 100-acre private Caribbean island and one of the biggest mansions in New York.

Fox News' Cecilia Duffy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.