Bureau of Prisons to close California women's prison where inmates were sexually abused

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The embattled Federal Bureau of Prisons announced Monday that it will close a California women's prison known as a “rape club” despite attempts to reform the facility in difficulty after an Associated Press investigation revealed rampant sexual abuse between staff and inmates. .

Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters said in a statement to the AP that the agency had “taken unprecedented steps and provided a considerable amount of resources to address culture, recruitment and retention, aging infrastructure – and most critically – employee misconduct.”


“Despite these measures and resources, we have determined that FCI Dublin is not meeting expected standards and that the best solution is to close the facility,” Peters said. “This decision is made after ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of these unprecedented measures and additional resources.”

The announcement of Dublin's closure represents an extraordinary acknowledgment by the Bureau of Prisons that its much-promised efforts to improve the culture and environment have not worked. Many attempts to stem the problems in Dublin came after the AP investigation revealed a pattern of abuse and mismanagement that lasted for years, even decades.

Federal prisons

The Federal Correctional Institution is in Dublin, California, December 5, 2022. The Federal Bureau of Prisons said it plans to close a women's prison in California known as the “rape club” despite attempts to reform the troubled facility after an associate news investigation revealed widespread sexual abuse between staff and inmates. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Just ten days before the closure was announced, a federal judge took the unprecedented step of appointing a special master to oversee the prison.


FCI Dublin, about 21 miles east of Oakland, is one of six women-only federal prisons and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. It currently houses 605 inmates – 504 inmates in its main prison and another 101 in an adjacent minimum-security camp. This figure is down from the total of 760 detained in February 2022.

Women currently held at the prison will be transferred to other facilities, Peters said, and no employees will lose their jobs.

Advocates have called for inmates to be released from FCI Dublin, which they say is not only rife with sexual abuse but also has dangerous mold, asbestos and inadequate health care.

Last August, eight inmates at Dublin's FCI sued the Bureau of Prisons, or BOP, alleging the agency had failed to stamp out sexual abuse. Amaris Montes, the plaintiffs' lawyer, said detainees continued to face retaliation for reporting abuse, including being placed in solitary confinement and having their property confiscated.

Montes said she and her clients suspected closure might be a possibility, but the suddenness of the decision so soon after the master's special appointment was a shock. “This is a signal that the prison knows it is not meeting constitutional standards to protect people from sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Montes said Monday.

Montes said the timeline for closure and transfer of inmates was still being worked out, but she hoped it would be done in a measured manner.

“I think the BOP is rushing to try to shift the buck and move it elsewhere as a way to remedy the problem. And that would mean, you know, moving people quickly without meeting their needs at the moment.” Many incarcerated women have physical and mental health issues that need to be treated, she said, while the release of other inmates could be considered.

On Monday, two buses were traveling in the FCI Dublin car park. Prison staff moved luggage and supply carts between buildings and buses. An AP reporter did not see any detainees leave the facility.


Last month, the FBI raided the prison again and the Bureau of Prisons again shook its leadership after a warden sent to help rehabilitate the facility was accused of retaliating against an inmate whistleblower. Days later, a federal judge overseeing the lawsuits against the prison said she would appoint a special master to oversee the facility's operations.

A 2021 AP investigation revealed a culture of abuse and cover-ups that persisted for years at the prison. Those reports led to increased oversight from Congress and promises from the Bureau of Prisons that it would fix problems and change the prison culture.

Since 2021, at least eight FCI Dublin employees have been accused of sexually abusing inmates. Five pleaded guilty. Two were convicted at trial, including the former director, Ray Garcia. Another case is underway.

Any sexual activity between a prison employee and an inmate is illegal. Correctional employees wield considerable power over inmates, controlling every aspect of their lives, from meal times to lights out, and there is no scenario in which an inmate can give consent.


Inmate advocates fear some of the security problems at FCI Dublin will persist in other women's prisons. Montes said the civil litigation would continue despite the impending closure.

“The BOP is the defendant in this matter. It is not FCI Dublin,” she said. “And so we are confident that this has not ended our case – that they still have a responsibility to our customers to ensure their safety.”


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