Judge appoints special master to oversee California federal women’s prison after rampant abuse

Mar 15, 2024, 4:58 PM | Updated: 5:06 pm

Photo: An official walks toward an entrance to the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Cali...

An official walks toward an entrance to the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif. March 11, 2024. (File photo: Jeff Chiu, AP)

(File photo: Jeff Chiu, AP)

A judge on Friday appointed a special master to oversee a troubled federal women’s prison in California known for rampant sexual abuse against inmates, marking the first time the federal Bureau of Prisons has been subject to such oversight.

2021 Associated Press investigation that found a culture of abuse and cover-ups at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin brought increased scrutiny from Congress and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The prison, located about 21 miles (34 kilometers) east of Oakland, has more than 600 inmates.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers called the prison “a dysfunctional mess” in her order.

“The situation can no longer be tolerated. The facility is in dire need of immediate change,” she wrote, adding that the Bureau of Prisons has “proceeded sluggishly with intentional disregard of the inmates’ constitutional rights despite being fully apprised of the situation for years. The repeated installation of BOP leadership who fail to grasp and address the situation strains credulity.”

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Order part of federal lawsuit filed in August

The order is part of a federal lawsuit filed in August by eight inmates and the advocacy group California Coalition for Women Prisoners. They allege that sexual abuse and exploitation have not stopped despite the prosecution of the former warden and several former officers. Representatives for the inmates and the coalition did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the special master appointment.

Rogers did not name someone to be the special master in the order but wrote that the court would appoint one “forthwith.”

Since 2021, at least eight FCI Dublin employees have been charged with sexually abusing inmates. Five have pleaded guilty. Two were convicted at trial. Another case is pending.

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All sexual activity between a prison worker and an inmate is illegal. Correctional employees enjoy substantial power over inmates, controlling every aspect of their lives from mealtime to lights out, and there is no scenario in which an inmate can give consent.

Friday’s special master appointment follows days after the FBI searched the prison as part of an ongoing, years-long investigation into allegations of rampant sexual abuse of inmates. The current warden has also been ousted after new allegations that his staff retaliated against an inmate who testified against the prison, according to government court papers filed Monday.

FCI Dublin’s sexual abuse scandal has been one of many troubles plaguing the federal Bureau of Prisons, which is also beset by rampant staffing shortages, suicides and security breaches.

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Judge appoints special master to oversee California federal women’s prison after rampant abuse