Feds push back against judge and say troubled California prison should be shut down without delay

FILE - The Federal Correctional Institution stands in Dublin, Calif., Dec. 5, 2022. The federal Bureau of Prisons says it is planning to close a womens prison in California known as the rape club despite attempts to reform the troubled facility after an Associated Press investigation exposed rampant staff-on-inmate sexual abuse. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File) (Jeff Chiu, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LOS ANGELES – Federal officials are pushing back against a judge's order that would delay the planned closure of a troubled women's prison in California where inmates suffered sexual abuse by guards, according to court documents.

Following the Bureau of Prison’s sudden announcement Monday that FCI Dublin would be shut down, U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ordered an accounting of the casework for all 605 women held at the main lockup and its adjacent minimum-security camp.

Recommended Videos

In response, the bureau has filed court papers questioning the authority of the special master appointed by the judge on April 5 to oversee the prison, who's now tasked with reviewing each inmate's status.

The judge's order amounts to “a de facto requirement” for the bureau to keep the prison open, U.S. attorneys wrote in Tuesday's filing. But plans for the closure and transfer of inmates “cannot be changed on the fly,” especially because the facility faces a “significant lack of health services and severe understaffing,” according to the filing.

“The Court not only lacks jurisdiction to impose such a requirement, but it is also antithetical to the overall objective of safeguarding inmate safety and welfare,” the documents say. "Extensive resources and employee hours have already been invested in the move.”

A painstaking review of each incarcerated woman's status would “ensure inmates are transferred to the correct location," the judge wrote in her order Monday. “This includes whether an inmate should be released to a BOP facility, home confinement, or halfway house, or granted a compassionate release.”

It wasn’t clear Thursday how long the process could take.

Advocates have called for inmates to be freed from FCI Dublin, which they say is not only plagued by sexual abuse but also has hazardous mold, asbestos and inadequate health care. They also worry that some of the safety concerns could persist at other women’s prisons.

A 2021 Associated Press investigation exposed a “rape club” culture at the prison where a pattern of abuse and mismanagement went back years, even decades. The Bureau of Prisons repeatedly promised to improve the culture and environment — but the decision to shutter the facility represented an extraordinary acknowledgment that reform efforts have failed.

Groups representing inmates and prison workers alike said the imminent closure shows that the bureau is more interested in avoiding accountability than stemming the problems.

Last August, eight FCI Dublin inmates sued the Bureau of Prisons, alleging the agency had failed to root out sexual abuse at the facility about 21 miles (35 kilometers) east of Oakland. It is one of six women-only federal prisons and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said inmates continued to face retaliation for reporting abuse, including being put in solitary confinement and having belongings confiscated. They said the civil litigation will continue.

The AP investigation found a culture of abuse and cover-ups that had persisted for years. That reporting led to increased scrutiny from Congress and pledges from the Bureau of Prisons that it would fix problems and change the culture at the prison.

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

Recommended Videos