Prisons chief critical of guards sleeping on the job

Bureau of Prisons director responds to bipartisan scrutiny

Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senators from both sides of the aisle pushed Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Tuesday morning on the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein in August.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., one of the Judiciary Committee members who focused on the Epstein case in questioning, ultimately turned his attention to broader problems.

“How widespread is the problem of sleeping on the job? There are lots of people in the public who think this seems a very convenient excuse, and so tell us: is it a systemic problem? Do we have a lot of people who sleep on the job when they’re supposed to be guarding federal inmates?” Sasse asked.

“We have a few, sir,” Sawyer said, calling them “dangerous to everybody, the inmates and the staff.”

Sawyer emphasized that the overwhelming majority of Federal Bureau of Prisons employees, totaling more than 35,000, were diligent, but she was acutely aware that was not true of everyone.

The testimony comes just hours after two federal correctional officers were charged in connection with failing to properly monitor Epstein.