Jeffrey Epstein was jailed three doors away from drug king El Chapo’s cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. But El Chapo, famed for two escapes from maximum prisons in Mexico – one by laundry cart, the other by tunnel – was unable to break away this time and was transferred to serve a life sentence in Colorado.
Meanwhile, Epstein did escape by death. The jailers who closely monitored El Chapo were extremely lax with Epstein, as if he somehow didn’t merit the same attention in a prison noted for its security – nothing more secure, say those who have worked or served a sentence there. A camera kept watch in El Chapo’s cell with round the clock surveillance. Apparently, Epstein didn’t rate.
In the aftermath, there’s the usual confused squabble over what happened and who’s to blame – long grueling work hours and inhuman prison conditions that take a toll of inmates and guards alike. But there’s also the question of the role of money that’s as critical inside the prison as outside it.
There are multiple reports of attempted bribes at the Center. Last year a guard pleaded guilty to taking money to smuggle cell phones and alcohol to prisoners. In 2017 an inmate said that while he was receiving banned items in his cell, another prisoner threatened him with a knife for cooperating with the U.S. government in a prominent trial. In 2016 a guard was sentenced to seven years in prison for raping an inmate while she was mopping the floor.
Given Epstein’s dealings with the high-flying wealthy and well placed, there was no shortage of money to silence him before he could implicate them. That is conjecture as we await the hopefully decisive findings of various investigations.
In the meantime, it’s worth bearing in mind the contrast between the two celebrated prisoners. For all his personal misdoings, El Chapo’s removal doesn’t affect the drugs flowing into the U.S. His Sinaloa cartel is as powerful as ever, its new boss El Mayo running it without hindrance. Money – many billions – rule, not specific individuals.
But Epstein alive was vital to his case. He knew all those involved with the young girls in his control. Do others also know, and will they take heed from his fate? If investigations fail to satisfy, we may face corruption on a scale that we have not seen before.