Gross incompetence in prison preceded brutal killing of Whitey Bulger, watchdog finds


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Gross incompetence in prison preceded brutal killing of Whitey Bulger, watchdog finds

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Ahead of his transfer to a West Virginia prison, inmates there traded bets over how much time mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger had left to live, illustrating how well-known his location was around the time of his move, a Justice Department watchdog found.

A remarkable flurry of mishaps and bureaucratic blunders preceded the ill-fated transfer as officials in the federal Bureau of Prisons took minimal security precautions, despite Bulger being a renowned informant to law enforcement, according to the watchdog report. But the DOJ’s inspector general report stopped short of accusing BOP workers of acting maliciously.


“We found that did not occur here, not because of a malicious intent or failure to comply with BOP policy, but rather because of staff and management performance failures; bureaucratic incompetence; and flawed, confusing, and insufficient policies and procedures,” the report declared.

“In our view, no BOP inmate’s transfer, whether they are a notorious gangster or a non-violent offender, should be handled like Bulger’s transfer was handled in this instance,” the report added.

Bulger, a seasoned crime boss in the Boston area infamous for his brutality in the 1970s and 1980s, was savagely bludgeoned by inmates less than 12 hours after he was moved from a Florida prison to the Hazelton federal penitentiary in West Virginia. The transfer came after he threatened a nurse. Bulger had been using a wheelchair at the time.

He was found mutilated on Oct. 30, 2018, with his eyes gouged out, his tongue nearly cut off, and his body badly maimed. One official described him as “unrecognizable.” Subsequently, three inmates were charged for the vicious killing, but questions have lingered over the circumstances of his death.

A manager at Hazelton requested Bulger get moved to his unit, despite there being at least one major organized crime leader holed up there, according to the report. The manager denied knowing there were safety concerns for Bulger in the unit. However, inmates later told investigators that “everyone knew” Bulger would get killed because he was a “rat,” NBC reported.

Over 100 BOP personnel were aware of Bulger’s forthcoming transfer to Hazelton, and some staffers discussed it openly with inmates, in a breach of policy, per the report.

Bulger had been a fugitive from 1994 until 2011, after the dramatic apprehension of him. While he vehemently denies informing the authorities, the FBI revealed he worked as an informant dating back to the mid-1970s. Relations between the FBI and Bulger’s criminal empire have been subject to scrutiny.

Questions percolated over why Bulger had been moved to Hazelton, a violent prison. The report explained that the penitentiary was selected because of its medical facilities and closer proximity to his family in Boston. The watchdog argued he should’ve been sent to a prison with medical facilities better suited to his heart problems and other health troubles.


DOJ’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigation was not criminal, but the FBI is doing a separate criminal review of the matter. The inspector general’s report pointed to six prison employees who may have engaged in misconduct. The BOP said it agreed with the watchdog report’s recommendations.

“Subsequent to the events described in the OIG report, BOP initiated several improvements to its medical transfer system, including enhanced communication between employees involved in the process, multiple trainings for personnel, and technological advancements,” an agency spokesperson explained in a statement, per NBC.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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