The handgun was located on Thursday inside a housing unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, which had been on lockdown for a week “in order to protect the public, staff and inmates until a comprehensive search could be completed”, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) said.
Authorities have not said where the gun was specifically found, or how it had been smuggled inside the jail, which holds about 700 inmates, many of whom are awaiting trial.
The finding comes as federal prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into potential misconduct by guards, focusing on the flow of contraband within the prison, the Associated Press reported.
During the week-long sweep of the jail, mobile phones, drugs and homemade weapons were all uncovered by officers, the BOP said.
“All of these items pose a significant threat to the safety and security of the facility as well as the public,” the agency said in a statement.
Investigators were planning to continue sweeping the jail throughout Thursday night. Although the gun was found, the bureau said the jail would remain on “modified operations status to finalise searches in all areas of the facility”.
Federal prosecutors are trying to determine how such items have been entering the facility — one that is often billed as the most secure in America.
All visitors and inmates are searched before entering the facility and go through metal detectors. They are supposed to leave personal belongings outside the jail. All mail is also screened by correctional staff.
The discoveries will raise further concerns over the BOP, which has been the subject of intense scrutiny since Epstein took his own life while in custody in August last year.
Federal prosecutors allege that the two correctional officers assigned to watch Epstein’s unit were shopping on the Internet when he died his cell, and later forged records to make it look like they had checked in on him.
In November, the two men were charged in a federal indictment with making false records and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Additional reporting by AP
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