WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Newly released records from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office show convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein qualified for work release under the policy in place at the time, despite his sex offender status.
Contact 5 reviewed 15 different work release policies provided by PBSO through a public records requests. The records, each one a revision of the last, show Epstein’s work release privileges fell under a 2007 policy, written a year before he was locked up.
Under PBSO’s 2007 work release policy, no language is recorded in the document that would exclude convicted sex offenders like Jeffrey Epstein from work release.
“I would say that if somebody is a sex offender the sheriff’s department should have rejected him for their program,” criminal defense attorney Greg Lehrman told Contact 5, after reviewing the 2007 policy. “Under the 2007 policy, the sheriff’s department had the ability, the discretion to allow Mr. Epstein out on work release. That’s not a question. But they should have used more common sense.”
An inmate’s sex offender status wouldn’t exclude him or her from the work release program until May 2011, when PBSO specifically added “convicted sex offender” to a list of ineligible offenses. By that time, Epstein has already been released from PBSO’s custody.
(Scroll down to view all 15 work release policies provided by PBSO through a public records request.)
In 2007, PBSO specifically rewrote the first page of its work release policy to include specific language that would allow all inmates equal access to the program unless they were “a potential threat to the safety of themselves, staff, or other inmates or to the security of the facility.”
PBSO wouldn’t consider someone who is also a threat to the community as grounds for exclusion from the work release program until May 2011, after Epstein’s release.
Epstein’s guilty pleas to two prostitution crimes, including the solicitation of a minor, almost excluded him from the work release program.
In 2000, any inmate who had two guilty pleas to prostitution-related crimes within ten years was excluded from the work release program. However, in October 2003, the policy changed to three guilty pleas to prostitution-related crimes within five years.
Had the old policy still been in place, Epstein would have been disqualified from the work release program.
PBSO refused interview requests about PBSO's work release policies citing active criminal and internal investigations, probes which are being handled internally by PBSO.
Epstein was jailed in the Palm Beach County stockade from June 30, 2008 to July 2009. He spent about three months behind bars, in a private wing of the jail, before his work release privileges kicked in.
Epstein left the jail 12 hours a day, six days a week, and was allowed to visit his Palm Beach mansion for hours, unsupervised inside.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office caught heat in 2007 when they let the financier and convicted sex offender out on work release just three months into his jail sentence.
WPTV asked back then why a convicted sex offender was allowed out on work release. Spokesperson Teri Barbera said, “He met the requirements of the program.”
The controversy resurfaced last month after Epstein was arrested again: this time by federal agents in New York on sex trafficking charges. Privileges have put the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office (PBSO) at the center of controversy.
Contact 5 asked Barbera again why Epstein was allowed out on work release. In an email, Barbera wrote, “Sex offenders are not permitted to go on work release. Epstein registered as a sex offender after he was released from jail.”
“My concern with that press release is that it’s splitting hairs,” said Lehrman. “Absolutely ridiculous. [Epstein] was designated as a sex offender. Whether he registered or not shouldn’t make any difference. He only didn’t register because he was in [PBSO’s] custody and he wasn’t supposed to be out, and he was out.”
Contact 5 emailed Barbera for clarification. We received this response: “We have given you countless records and video verbiage to answer your questions. I ask you to please refer back to all the documents and video verbiage you have been given to answer any additional questions you have. If you need any additional records and we have them, I would gladly make sure you get them.”
So far, all interview requests to PBSO have either been denied or gone unanswered. Contact 5 has also been denied numerous public record requests surrounding Epstein's incarceration and work release citing active criminal and internal investigations into the Epstein matter. Both investigations into PBSO’s handling of Epstein are being conducted by PBSO.
Since Contact 5 made many of the requests prior to the start of the investigations, and because many of the records have already been made public in some form before, Contact 5’s attorney contacted PBSO and Barbera demanding the records be made available immediately.
JUST IN: Palm Beach County Commissioner @VoteMcKinlay weighs in on @WPTVContact5's recent findings about the work release policy in place at the time of Epstein's incarceration. Read her letter in the photo below. https://t.co/PJuI0ypgQF @WPTV pic.twitter.com/oG1nvrLX6M
— Merris Badcock (@MerrisBadcock) August 6, 2019
Regardless of the work release policy in place when Epstein was behind bars, Lehrman says, aside from a judge’s court order, (Sheriff) Bradshaw has the ultimate say in who gets work release.
“I deal with these issues all the time, constantly: who can get on work release and who can get on house arrest. The sheriff’s office can reject anyone they want for any reason.”
Currently, Bradshaw’s 2019 work release policy is under review by the Criminal Justice Commission, a planning and research organization focused on problem-solving community crime issues in Palm Beach County.
The CJC’s Corrections Task Force agreed to review the current work release policy after a request from Bradshaw himself, but they will only be able to make recommendations, not investigate.
“We are not investigating his agency. We do not have investigators on staff nor is that our role or within our authority,” wrote Kristina Henson, Executive Director of the CJC in an email. “We are a planning and research organization with analysts, researchers and planners. Our role is to evaluate and make recommendations based on research practices and principles.”
Bradshaw is one of 32 board members of the CJC, but he does not sit on the Corrections Task Force.
Like most local law enforcement agencies, PBSO has no oversight when it comes to writing internal policies. If the agency decides to write, revise or remove a policy, they do so at their own discretion. However, if an agency wishes to become accredited or have their accreditation renewed, there are certain guidelines they must follow in order to receive the designation. PBSO is an accredited agency.