There’s probably no degree of incompetence and callousness by prison officials that would convince critics of the system that something unusual happened with Epstein. Taken off suicide watch after a week? Guards not making their half-hourly checks as required, instead literally falling asleep on the job? Epstein being left alone in his cell despite the fact that that’s not supposed to happen to a prisoner who recently tried to kill himself? That’s a lot of failure.

“Yep,” the critics will say. “S.O.P. for the BOP.”

I wonder if this WaPo piece will change their minds. At some point the sheer extent of the failure must begin to look suspicious even to someone who thinks the administration of federal prisons is smoking garbage.

At least eight Bureau of Prisons staffers knew that strict instructions had been given not to leave multimillionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein alone in his cell, yet the order was apparently ignored in the 24 hours leading up to his death, according to people familiar with the matter.

The fact that so many prison officials were aware of the directive — not just low-level correctional officers, but supervisors and managers — has alarmed investigators assessing what so far appears to be a stunning failure to follow instructions, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing investigations. They declined to identify the eight…

That instruction was spelled out widely within the chain of command, people familiar with the matter said, and one of the issues investigators are trying to understand better is how so many people could have known of the instruction and still failed to enforce it.

Another noteworthy detail, the first time I’ve seen it reported, about the earlier suicide attempt Epstein made in late July:

In that incident, guards rushed to Epstein’s cell when his cellmate at the time, Nicholas Tartaglione, began yelling, according to people familiar with the matter. Tartaglione told officers he had noticed Epstein with a bedsheet around his neck and appeared to be trying to kill himself, according to people familiar with the incident.

Epstein reportedly accused Tartaglione afterward of having attacked him, but that explanation makes no sense if it was Tartaglione who alerted the guards. To the contrary, that incident would have driven home to MCC staff how important it was for Epstein to have a cellmate at all times. If not for Tartaglione, they might have lost Epstein the first time.

So how’d he end up with no cellmate on the evening of August 9?

WaPo reports that Epstein’s new cellmate was relocated on the very night that he ended up killing himself. With at least eight officials in the know that he was supposed to have a cellmate at every moment, you would think they might at least have compensated by being diligent about their checks that evening, maybe increasing them from every 30 minutes to every 15 minutes, say. Instead, supposedly hours passed between look-ins on Epstein.

And so we arrive at the fateful question: Was anyone on staff paid to facilitate this? Did anyone get a deposit into their checking account in exchange for leaving Epstein alone in his cell for a few hours with a bedsheet and no half-hourly checks? Remember, Epstein was reportedly paying protection money to several inmates by having funds added to their accounts in the commissary. He also paid the costs of the police detail that “supervised” him during his now infamous “work release” program as a prisoner in Palm Beach County 10 years ago, the circumstances of which were so relaxed that he allegedly was able to continue preying on young women *while serving a prison sentence.*

The entire story of Jeffrey Epstein’s life was offering people money to do illicit things for him and keep quiet about it, most notably the teenaged girls whom he paid for “massages” before coercing them into sex. Why wouldn’t he have followed the same approach with prison officials, particularly when all he was asking them to do was be their most incompetent selves for a few hours late on a Saturday night? I hope the FBI is combing through every financial account the eight of them have.

Look on the bright side, I guess. At least this is the most depressing Epstein-related story we’ll be asked to endure today. Exit question: Or is it?