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Why was Jeffrey Epstein allowed to purchase small women’s panties from Palm Beach jail?

A decade ago, during a brief stint in Palm Beach County Jail, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein made an odd purchase at the facility’s store: two pairs of small women’s panties, size 5.

It was just one of thousands of dollars of purchases made by the disgraced financier while in jail after pleading guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for sex, according to a purchase log. (His top purchase was single-serve cups of coffee, of which he bought more than 800 in 13 months.) But the panties raise questions about why a childless male inmate, accused of sexually abusing girls as young as 14, would be allowed to buy female undergarments so small that they wouldn’t fit an average-sized adult woman.

The panties were certainly too small for Epstein, who also purchased his briefs in men’s medium and sweatshirts ranging from XL to 3XL, and size-12 shoes. So what, or who, were they for, and why wouldn’t the purchase raise eyebrows under the circumstances? It’s one of many questions that arise from thousands of pages of records obtained by the Miami Herald from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

The stockade held male and female inmates, separately, explaining why the panties would be stocked.

On Friday, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail and stockade, handed out the records of his stay, during which he was allowed to leave the stockade in a chauffeur-driven car and deposited at a downtown West Palm Beach office building for a 12-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week respite from incarceration.

The records came out too late Friday to get a comment from Sheriff Ric Bradshaw or his spokeswoman. Bradshaw has faced increasingly fierce criticism — and his department is now under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — for its seemingly soft treatment of the multimillionaire hedge fund manager, who was, according to the records, allowed to wander in and out of his unlocked cell at will.

That investigation is separate from the Justice Department probe looking at why then-federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta decided to shelve a 53-page sex trafficking indictment against Epstein, which could have put him away for life.

And now there is yet another pending investigation, this one looking at how Epstein, rearrested at 66 in early July on renewed sex trafficking charges, was able to hang himself last Saturday in a New York City jail cell while awaiting trial. The new charges were filed after the Miami Herald published a series on Epstein’s 10-year-old case, Perversion of Justice, that examined, among other things, Acosta’s decision to give in to a defense demand that victims not be told about the earlier federal charges being dropped.

The Manhattan cell where he took his own life — in a hardscrabble lockup notorious for bugs, rodents and rough jailmates — was a stark contrast to his surroundings in Palm Beach County in 2008.

What’s clear from the Palm Beach sheriff’s records is that Epstein’s wealth provided him extraordinary privileges during his 13-month stay in Palm Beach stockade from June 30, 2008 toJuly 22, 2009 — an unlocked cell door, almost unlimited access to a TV, and a perhaps uniquely generous work release program that meant he spent almost as much time outside the jail as in it.

The longer he stayed, the cushier things got. Six-day-a-week work release was extended to seven. Hours outside the cell were extended from 12 to 16. He was permitted to pass some of the time at home. Records that once referred to him as an inmate now called him “client.”

Deputies, required to wear business suits, provided “security” for Epstein while he was on work release. They guarded the door to his office or home, sometimes from the outside, rather than keeping an eye directly on Epstein, while the inmate was on structured leave from the jail. Some deputies expressed relief in their daily reports that he seemed pleased with services rendered.

The records from Palm Beach suggest the local sheriff’s office never intended to treat the convicted sex offender as a typical inmate — explicitly because of his extraordinary wealth.

In an email on the day Epstein reported to jail, Capt. Mark Chamberlain wrote that the new inmate was a person of “unusual means” and expressed concerns that other prisoners might try to extort or manipulate him.

“His financial status lends itself to his being victimized while in custody and as such, he has been placed in special management,” Chamberlain wrote. “He is poorly versed in jail routine and society and his adjustment to incarceration will most likely be atypical. For the time being, I am authorizing that his cell door be left unlocked and he be given liberal access to the attorney room where a TV will be installed.”

The record of who visited Epstein while on work release — a daily log maintained by deputies and tucked away in a safe — has been destroyed. Explaining that decision, the sheriff’s office cited legally prescribed retention schedules that allowed for the book’s destruction. But many records from that time remain for investigators to examine, including the thousands of pages of just-released records.

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