He’s certainly no stranger to emergencies.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center captain in charge when Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself is expected to be transferred to a new prison where he will serve as “emergency preparedness officer,” sources tell the Daily News.
Jermaine Darden’s move to FCI Fort Dix, a low-security prison in Burlington County, N.J., was delayed due to the ongoing lockdown at the dysfunctional jail in lower Manhattan, according to a source.
As captain, Darden oversees lieutenants and correctional officers at MCC. Among those under his command were Officers Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, who are accused of sleeping on the job and falsifying records the night of Epstein’s death.
A source doubted that Darden was at the jail when Epstein was found hanging in his cell at 6:30 a.m. Aug. 10 but was confident he was one of the first people called about the crisis.
Thomas’s attorney Montell Figgins said Darden’s transfer and new title was yet another example of the upper ranks of MCC facing no consequences for systemic Bureau of Prisons failures that allowed the accused sex trafficker to avoid facing justice.
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“It shows you the hubris of the system,” Figgins said. “They couldn’t care less about the reality of what they’re dong. They would take this person, who was involved in this incident, and give him another title?”
Darden, 48, declined comment.
The transfer follows a pattern similar to that of Lamine N’Diaye, the MCC warden during the Epstein debacle. N’Diaye was moved to a desk job at a regional office in Pennsylvania days after the suicide. He was expected to assume a leadership role at Ft. Dix in February until Attorney General Bill Barr intervened and ordered the transfer be put on hold while investigations into Epstein’s death continue, the Associated Press reported.
Darden’s new title at Ft. Dix could come with a pay raise, a source said.
Working at the low-security lockup in New Jersey should be less stressful than MCC.
The 12-story jail next door to Manhattan Federal Court has been reeling since Epstein’s suicide. The building’s infrastructure is crumbling. Morale is at rock bottom following the arrests of Thomas and Noel. A gun smuggled into the jail prompted an ongoing lockdown and forced overworked staff to put in even longer hours. The FBI is investigating the flow of contraband into the facility.
Figgins made the case that Darden’s leadership was one of many problems at MCC at the time of Epstein’s suicide. The sex offender’s body was moved in his cell, which is a violation of protocol.
“They don’t have any pictures of what happened that night because they didn’t follow proper protocol,” Figgins said. “And yet he gets another position.”
The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on personnel decisions.
Thomas and Noel have pleaded not guilty to charges including filing false records, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.
A jail insider described Darden’s role as a difficult one. Correctional officers resented Darden for not being tough enough with inmates while medical staff resented him for being too rigid about regulations, the insider said.
“He had a reputation for not being liked by anyone,” the insider said.
Systemic issues in the Bureau of Prisons were ultimately to blame for the suicide, the source said.
“It’s impossible to be at work 24 hours a day,” the insider said of Darden. “But it is on you to make sure the right people are in place and are doing their jobs.”