FBI raids Dublin prison plagued by sex abuse; pattern of immigrant women being targeted, lawyer says

ByJ.R. Stone and Ryan Curry KGO logo
Tuesday, March 12, 2024
FBI raids Bay Area federal women's prison plagued by sex abuse
Federal investigators were again searching a troubled women's prison in Dublin seizing computers and documents in sexual abuse investigation.

DUBLIN, Calif. (KGO) -- FBI agents Monday raided the Women's Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin seizing computers and documents. The FBI didn't say why they are searching the facility, but this location has been the center of an ongoing investigation in sexual abuse and misconduct from prison staff.

"The feds are casting a very wide net here to look into this prison and all of the corruption that occurred there, and I think that's why they want to look at all the records and computers of the individuals at the prison because they don't want to just rely on information from the inmates," said legal analyst Steven Clark. He's giving his take on the situation with the troubled Dublin prison.

The FBI said they were conducting "court authorized law enforcement activity" but wouldn't provide any more details. The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirm there is a new warden in charge.

"Consistent with unprecedented and ongoing actions by FBOP leadership to create a positive change in the culture at FCI Dublin, recent developments have necessitated new executive employees be installed at the institution," a spokesperson said in an email. "We can confirm N.T. McKinney has been assigned as the interim Warden at FCI Dublin effective immediately."

Investigators have been looking into years of sexual abuse against inmates. At least eight employees, including a former warden and chaplain, have been charged with sexually abusing inmates. Five pleaded guilty and two more were convicted at trial.

"In the criminal cases, we've seen a pattern of guards intentionally targeting immigrant women - I think presuming that those women would then be deported once they are released from prison and that would make it harder to hold them accountable," said Susan Beaty, a lawyer representing victims in some of the cases. She wants outside oversight of the facility going forward. She also believes mental health care support should be available for victims.

Rep. Speier's office had been examining the misconduct allegations. In her last few months of office, she and Rep. Eric Swalwell went to the prison, but the prison denied them.

"They referred to it as a rape club," said former U.S. Representative Jackie Speier. "I wanted to speak with certain inmates there because I was told they had been raped and they had resisted letting me meet with them."

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Shapiro, with the Coalition for Women Prisoners, says she spoke with survivors who said the endured horrifying conditions.

"Few times we have gone in to visit people, after we left we heard everyone who had a visit was stripped searched," Shapiro said. "When you are talking to people about the sexual abuse you've experienced and you're getting stripped searched for talking about that can be very traumatic."

This is one of many issues plaguing the federal prison system, including suicides, escapes and rampant staff shortages.

"We're also in touch with over a dozen women who have been assaulted by Dublin officials and were subsequently deported, and so now are permanently separated from their families and communities," said Beaty.

Both Shapiro and Rep. Speier are calling on the DOJ to investigate all the prisons to bring necessary reform.

"There has to be a performance review that is rigorous and robust," Rep. Speier said. "So that if you are a prison guard that are of the old culture that somehow tolerated that kind of conduct, you need to be terminated."

Monday's law enforcement activity is the latest cloud over FCI Dublin.

An AP investigation in 2021 found a culture of abuse and cover-ups that had persisted for years at the prison. That reporting led to increased scrutiny from Congress and pledges from the federal Bureau of Prisons that it would fix problems and change the culture at the prison.

At least eight employees, including former warden Ray Garcia, have been charged with sexually abusing inmates. Garcia was convicted in 2022 of molesting inmates and forcing them to pose naked in their cells.

The 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.

Clark says he wouldn't be surprised if there were more arrests in this Dublin case.

"Anytime you have what turns out to be a public relation disaster and a national disgrace as to what you saw occurring at the prison, you want to get to the bottom of it to ensure that not just things in Dublin are done right but prisons throughout the country they're being handled right," Clark said.

The Associated Press' Michael R. Sisak and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report

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