Inside the federal West Virginia prison where gangster Whitey Bulger was beaten to death

  • Notorious mobster James "Whitey" Bulger was beaten to death inside a West Virginia prison in 2018.

  • He was killed less than 12 hours after he was transferred to the beleaguered facility.

  • The lockup has a "record of violence among inmates," a Justice Department watchdog report said.

Notorious Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger was beaten to death inside his cell at a federal West Virginia prison less than 12 hours after the 89-year-old was transferred to the beleaguered facility in 2018.

USP Hazelton —the high-security prison located in the town of Bruceton Mills where more than 1,500 adult men are currently housed — has a history of violence among inmates, according to a recently released Justice Department watchdog report about how federal prison officials botched Bulger's transfer.

In the months before Bulger — a secret FBI informant who used a wheelchair and had a heart condition — was transferred from USP Coleman II in Florida to the West Virginia prison, two inmates had been killed at the lockup.

The high-security prison also had a jailbreak at one of its satellite camps in 2011, according to the FBI.

Inmate Gerrod Thompson commandeered a truck at the jail and drove it to visit his wife, the FBI said. He was later caught and pleaded guilty, tacking on three more months to his sentence.

Bulger's transfer to Hazelton raised questions in part "because of the record of violence among inmates" at the facility, "which housed gang members and inmates with connections to organized crime," said the report by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General.

"Based on our review of incident records, Coleman was a safer facility," the report stated.

The inspector general's report revealed that "bureaucratic incompetence," "management failures," and " flawed, confusing, and insufficient policies and procedures" at the federal Bureau of Prisons led to the brutal beating death of Bulger.

Whitey Bulger.JPG
James "Whitey" Bulger.Reuters

Multiple Hazelton inmates told prison officials after Bulger's death that the gangster was slain "because he was a notorious cooperator or informant" and added that "everyone" knew that Bulger would be killed, according to the inspector general's report.

"He was a rat. What would you think would happen to him?" one inmate said.

Another inmate stated, "I heard he was a well-known government informant…. Seems he shouldn't have walked the yard. He wouldn't have been ok anywhere."

Additionally, one inmate told the inspector general's office that the "entire prison knew" Bulger was coming to Hazelton before his October 29 arrival. The inmate said he overheard multiple Bureau of Prisons officers speak openly of Bulger's arrival "as if they were 'talking about a football game.'"

That inmate also said that "both the inmates and staff were speculating about — and inmates were betting money on — how long Bulger would stay alive at Hazelton."

Bulger, a violent New England organized crime boss, spent 16 years as one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives before he was ultimately arrested in 2011 in California.

He was convicted in 2013 of a slew of crimes, including his involvement in 11 murders.

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