Home News Federal Officials to Shut Women’s Prison After Years of Sexual Abuse

Federal Officials to Shut Women’s Prison After Years of Sexual Abuse

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Federal Officials to Shut Women’s Prison After Years of Sexual Abuse

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For years, the women housed at the low-security federal prison in Northern California said they were victims of sexual assault at the hands of staff.

There were harrowing accounts of rape, sexual touching and voyeurism at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin. Some inmates said they were forced to strip naked, while others recounted being made to serve as lookouts while staff members brutalized their cellmates.

The abuse was so persistent, one investigation found, that prison employees called the facility “the rape club.”

Top leaders were ousted and a former warden was even convicted. But the efforts proved so futile that the Bureau of Prisons announced Monday that it had no other choice but to close the only federal women’s prison west of the Rocky Mountains for good.

Colette Peters, director of the Bureau of Prisons, said the Dublin prison, located about 30 miles east of San Francisco, “is not meeting expected standards” and will shutter. About 600 women will be transferred to other federal facilities, while all employees will be reassigned.

Ms. Peters said in a statement that the bureau had taken important steps to address employee misconduct, but had not fully resolved the problems. The closure date was uncertain as of Monday.

The announcement comes after a federal judge last month said that the Bureau of Prisons had “proceeded sluggishly” in addressing the crisis.

The judge, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, called the prison “a dysfunctional mess” and ordered a special master to oversee the facility. It was the first time in United States history that a federal prison had been placed under that kind of oversight.

“The situation can no longer be tolerated,” Judge Rogers wrote. “The facility is in need of dire change.”

Her order came days after the F.B.I. raided the prison and the Bureau of Prisons replaced the acting warden and three other top officials.

In 2021, the F.B.I. searched the home, office and vehicle of Ray Garcia, who was serving as warden of the prison at the time. He was convicted in December 2022 of abusing incarcerated women and is now serving a nearly six-year sentence in a federal prison. A chaplain and several other former Dublin officials have been charged with a range of crimes that include sexual abuse and cover-ups.

An investigation by The Associated Press in 2022 found that women inmates had for years accused the mostly male staff of sexual misconduct and were routinely brushed off. In some instances, women were sent to solitary confinement after reporting abuse.

Inmates and their lawyers said the abuse continued, and 63 women have now filed claims. Separately, lawyers in August filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of current inmates.

In the class-action case, Rights Behind Bars, a nonprofit that represents abused inmates, sought closure of the solitary confinement unit, increased medical and mental health care and an expedited process for compassionate release for incarcerated women there.

Oren Nimni, the group’s litigation director, said Monday’s closure announcement was good news, but did not resolve the case.

He said that the Bureau of Prisons’ pledge to preserve jobs could result in employees complicit in the toxic culture bringing similar behavior to prisons around the country. He also said that the incarcerated women should be placed on home confinement rather than transferred elsewhere, where they could face retaliation for making allegations against Dublin staff.

Mr. Nimni said that one of his clients, a woman who goes by the initials S.L. in court documents, alleged that she was repeatedly approached by a prison officer who brought her gifts and tried to kiss her. The officer later entered her cell and touched her when she was naked after showering.

“After it came to light, S.L. was thrown into solitary confinement while the issue was quote unquote under investigation,” Mr. Nimni said.

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