But will the abuse-clouded prison get attention?

Staff and inmates claim that their pleas for help have been ignored for months.

But will the abuse-clouded prison get attention?

Staff and inmates claim that their pleas for help have been ignored for months. In this prison of deep despair, where sexual abuse is rampant, authorities were utterly indifferent and the workforce was deeply demoralized. The cries for help were numerous and varied.

A Associated Press investigation revealed a culture that abused and covered up for years at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin, California. This facility is known as the "rape club" because it is women-only. In January, the head of federal Bureau of Prisons resigned due to AP reporting. He was still working as a prisoner despite the fact that no replacement had been identified.

He was now responding to Dublin's problems, but only after a furious congresswoman called him to complain.

The lame duck administrator arrived at the prison in March after arriving in person to meet with inmates and staff. Dublin prisoners claim that this is how he met them during his tour of the facility.

Michael Carvajal stated, "You wanted my attention," so here I am.

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"TRUST HAS BEEN BROKEN"

"It's horrible. It is absolutely terrible. This is the worst thing I have ever seen. This is the first time I have ever been in a similar situation in my professional career. This is truly extraordinary."

These words about the Dublin facility are not spoken by an activist or prison advocate. They also do not come from elected officials. These words are from Thahesha Juseino, the prison's newly appointed warden.

Ray J. Garcia, Ray's predecessor, was one of five Dublin employees charged with abusing inmates since June.

Jusino stated that "we've really lost a whole lot of credibility through all this," in an interview with AP.

This story was based on interviews with over a dozen people who are familiar with prison operations, the visiting task force and the abuse crisis. These include former and current inmates, staff, lawyers, government officials, and union representatives. Many spoke anonymously out of fear of reprisal or because they weren't authorized to.

During the same week as the task force's March 7 visit, the AP traveled to Dublin (located 21 miles (34 km) east of Oakland). Reports of abuse in the workplace caused concern among lawmakers and they also visited Dublin shortly thereafter. Carvajal, along with some members of the task force, returned to Dublin in April. One sign of progress was the replacement of both associate wardens in the prison.

But will the abuse-clouded prison get attention?

Staff and inmates claim that their pleas for help have been ignored for months. In this prison of deep despair, where sexual abuse is rampant, authorities were utterly indifferent and the workforce was deeply demoralized. The cries for help were numerous and varied.

A Associated Press investigation revealed a culture that abused and covered up for years at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin, California. This facility is known as the "rape club" because it is women-only. In January, the head of federal Bureau of Prisons resigned due to AP reporting. He was still working as a prisoner despite the fact that no replacement had been identified.

He was now responding to Dublin's problems, but only after a furious congresswoman called him to complain.

The lame duck administrator arrived at the prison in March after flying in to meet with staff and inmates. Dublin prisoners claim that this is how he met them during his tour of the facility.

Michael Carvajal stated, "You wanted my attention," so here I am.

___

"TRUST HAS BEEN BROKEN"

"It's horrible. It is absolutely terrible. This is the worst thing I have ever seen. This is the first time I have ever been in a similar situation in my professional career. This is truly extraordinary."

These words about the Dublin facility are not spoken by an activist or prison advocate. They also do not come from elected officials. These words are from Thahesha Juseino, the prison's newly appointed warden.

Ray J. Garcia, Ray's predecessor, was one of five Dublin employees charged with abusing inmates since June.

Jusino stated that "we've really lost a whole lot of credibility through all this," in an interview with AP.

This story was based on interviews with over a dozen people who are familiar with prison operations, the visiting task force and the abuse crisis. These include former and current inmates, staff, lawyers, government officials, and union representatives. Many spoke anonymously out of fear of reprisal or because they weren't authorized to.

During the same week as the task force's March 7 visit, the AP traveled to Dublin (located 21 miles (34 km) east of Oakland). Reports of abuse in the workplace caused concern among lawmakers and they also visited Dublin shortly thereafter. Carvajal, along with some members of the task force, returned to Dublin in April. One sign of progress was the replacement of both associate wardens in the prison.

Carvajal (a Trump administration holdover) resigned Jan. 5, but stated that he would continue to serve until a successor is chosen. For the first three days, he joined the task force during its first weeklong visit to Dublin.

However, even though the task force arrived and external scrutiny appeared to finally be available, it did not appear that things were moving in a positive direction.

Inmates were moved out of the special housing unit by officials to make it look smaller when the task force arrived. They also lied to Carvajal regarding COVID-19 contamination, so that inmates in a particular unit couldn't talk to him about abuse.

The people who made it to Carvajal were determined. One scene was very emotional. A woman, who claimed she had been abused by prison officials, confronted him in tears in a recreation area while he and the task force met with inmates.

The woman spoke out about her abuse and shared details. After speaking for around 15 minutes, she became increasingly upset and only stopped talking when prison officials gave her tissues. Finally, she was taken out of the room by a prison psychologist. She offered her immediate release to a halfwayhouse.

She objected. She wanted to wait to tell her story to the congressional leaders at the prison. People at the prison claim she was not able to fully express her concerns.

Bureau of Prisons and Justice Department officials informed the woman that she was a potential victim and she could not talk about the investigation. Soon after the tour, the woman was transferred to a halfway house.

Another charged moment was when Dublin workers lashed at Carvajal for giving Garcia charge of a women’s prison, even though he had been a misogynist in prison circles.

Carvajal was told by one worker that "you created this monster." Another worker asked Carvajal: "Why did this environment become so toxic?" Garcia was chosen as the warden.

Garcia is accused of molestation of an inmate, multiple times, from December 2019 to February 2020. He also forced her and another inmate naked to take photos while he was making rounds. Investigators claimed that they found the images on Garcia's government-issued cell phone. His lawyer declined to interview him.

Garcia is also accused in intimidating one of his victims by using his authority. He told her that he was close friends with the person who was investigating misconduct among staff members and that he couldn't be fired. He has pleaded guilty.

After Garcia's misconduct, Carvajal promoted Garcia to associate warden to Dublin warden in November 2020. However, this was before the agency claimed it knew. Carvajal stated to the workers that Garcia's reputation and alleged abuse would have made him choose a different warden.

Carvajal, speaking to Garcia's inmates, said something slightly different. He believed that Garcia was innocent until proven guilty.

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UNEASY HISTORY

FCI Dublin is one six-woman-only facility in the U.S. Federal Prison System. Dublin was home to approximately 785 prisoners, many of whom were serving sentences for drug offenses.

The federal youth center was established in 1974. It housed men and women aged 18 to 26 in a campus-like environment. Later, the concept was abandoned.

The Bureau of Prisons transformed the facility into an adult prison in 1977. It was first used by Patty Hearst, a high-profile female heiress, and later, it was made available to men and women in 1980. In 2012, it was reopened as a women's prison.

FCI Dublin has experienced sexual abuse throughout its existence.

Three female prisoners sued the Bureau of Prisons in 1996. They claimed they were sold as sex slaves by correctional officers who locked them up in male units, opened their cells, and then allowed male inmates to rape or rob them. The lawsuit was settled for $500,000.

In addition, four officers were arrested in late 1990s for engaging in sexual conduct in prison. In the early 2010s, around a dozen Dublin workers were quietly fired for abusing inmates. According to an employee at the time, none were arrested. After videotapes of him having sex in prison, one worker was allowed to retire.

Two of the five people charged with abusing inmates sexually have pleaded guilty. The investigation continues. On March 20, a food service worker was arrested for touching the genitals of an inmate in October 2020.

The Bureau of Prisons has placed nine additional workers on administrative leave since March. During the visit, new complaints about staff discrimination and sexual abuse were filed by inmates. In mid-April, FBI agents searched the prison and the home of an employee. At least six internal affairs investigators were on site to investigate claims.

Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General, is regularly briefed on issues in the federal prison system. She stated that the Justice Department is committed to holding BOP personnel responsible, even through criminal charges.

When asked about Dublin by Attorney General Merrick Garland at Tuesday's U.S. Senate Budget Hearing, he said that it was Monaco's idea, and not Carvajal, to create a task force to "investigate and determine the procedural errors" at the prison. As steps towards improving conditions, he cited the prosecutions of accused employees, ongoing internal investigations and the selection Jusino to be warden.

Garland stated, "This is yet another terrible set of events."

Kristina Mastropasqua, spokesperson for the Justice Department, stated that the task force visited Dublin and reported misconduct allegations to the prison's internal affairs officer. Investigators then "opened a case file" for each allegation.

During the visit of the task force, many complaints were also filed by staff and inmates alleging sexual harassment, misconduct, and violations to the Prison Rape Elimination Act, as well as federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws.

What was the number of complaints received? The Bureau of Prisons refused to answer a question from the AP.

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REAL CHANGE OR PERFORMANCE

Despite all the shocking details that the March task force collected, it wasn't the truth. This is partly due to inmates and prison workers not trusting the leadership and refusing to talk candidly and partly because officials covered up some of Dublin’s problems.

To make the housing less crowded, inmates who had been placed in the special housing unit because of disciplinary issues were released to the general population. Carvajal was also told by officials that he could not visit a housing unit where he wanted to discuss abuse. They falsely claimed that the unit was contaminated by COVID-19.

Carvajal seemed surprised by the absence of security cameras in critical areas. This issue was raised six years ago by prison union members. He promised to speed up the installation process.

Although Dublin has some cameras, they were not present in all the rooms and hallways Carvajal visited, including those where inmates were abused sexually. The director repeatedly asked Carvajal, "Where are your cameras?"

A recent afternoon saw inmates from Dublin's minimum security prison camp congregating along a walking path outside the prison's perimeters. There was no surveillance or perimeter cameras and there was no visible supervision. In the past few years, the Bureau of Prisons was under scrutiny after many prisoners escaped from its prisons. Many simply walked away from low-security areas.

Responding to questions regarding Carvajal's visit, the Bureau of Prisons stated that "Making infrastructural enhancements, such as adding more cameras to protect the safety of inmates, staff and their security is a priority."

Seven weeks later, no new camera was installed.

It is unclear exactly what progress was made by the task force during its visit, and who had access to them while they were there.

Susan Beaty, a Dublin lawyer, stated that advocates had information they could share with the task force, but were not allowed to attend the visit. Beaty stated that many of the abused prisoners were immigrants and that predatory staff members were targeting women who were facing deportation.

The Bureau of Prisons is "never proactive." They're reactive. They are only reacting because Congress is watching and they know they must act," Ed Canales, president of the Dublin union, said.

Canales stated that the prison staff wasn't impressed with Canales' visit. He didn't expect any changes because of some senior managers who encouraged or ignored abuse.

Beaty stated that correctional officers performed a charade during their visit. They displayed their best behavior while the taskforce was present, cursing at inmates whenever they left the room.

Some inmates saw the taskforce's visit as window dressing ahead of U.S. Rep Jackie Speier's return from prison on March 14 with two other members.

One inmate asked, "Is this for show so you can claim you were before Congress comes back?" Another observed: "It's just like I thought." They were told that the task force was there to direct them and keep them on top of any issues.

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CONGRESS IS WATCHING

The Bureau of Prisons has come under increasing criticism from Congress. This agency has been plagued with a variety of problems, many of which were revealed by AP reports.

After an AP investigation revealed a toxic prison culture and cover-ups, the bureau created its Dublin task force. The task force was established by Carvajal in an internal memo on March 2, two days before it began work. Until the AP inquired, he didn't disclose it publicly.

Carvajal stated that 18 women, including a warden, and officials from internal affairs and human resources were being sent to observe and assess the institutional climate and assist the agency in resolving issues and improving performance.

Carvajal spoke to prisoners and acknowledged that he felt pressured by Congress to take action.

Speier, D.Calif., he said, called him after Speier visited Dublin following the AP's reporting. Carvajal stated that Speier was unhappy with the treatment of inmates and that she complained about how prison officials had stonewalled her attempts to talk with them.

Dublin's union and inmate advocacy groups claimed that the Justice Department and bureau had not responded to their earlier pleas for help. Since FBI agents raided the office of the former warden last July, the union claimed it had been asking agency leaders to visit Dublin.

More than 100 inmate advocacy groups sent a February letter to the Justice Department requesting "swift and sweeping action" in Dublin to address abuse. They also requested an independent investigation into the situation and the release of victims to prevent any further trauma. However, they never received a reply.

After the task force, Speier and Reps. Karen Bass and Eric Swalwell visited the facility and expressed their satisfaction with its work, but also had concerns about the lack of appropriate medical and psychological services.

They praised the recommendations to increase security cameras and provide an email address to inmates for reporting abuse. They called for special training of female prisoners' employees.

Speier stated in an interview that "there is literally a culture that is toxic" and that it needs to be addressed.

Bass, Speier, and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) introduced legislation last month to improve treatment of women in federal prisons like Dublin. This included providing adequate medical care, and reviewing efforts to retain female officers.

The Women in Criminal Justice Reform Act, among other things, would establish minimum standards for care and conditions in federal prisons where women are kept, temporary release of inmates to receive medical services, such as care from a female assault nurse examiner, and training federal prison workers in trauma informed screening and care.

Each of these changes would make Dublin a better place. They could all work together to make it a complete overhaul.

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WILL ANYTHING HAPPEN??

The crisis at Dublin continues, raising questions about the Bureau of Prisons' ability to fix it. The task force's visit has not provided much hope.

Dublin officials began to enforce stricter prison uniform rules after the visitors left March and cracked down on prisoners' few luxury items.

Blankets were taken from prisoners who used them to keep warm in cold cells. Robes bought from the prison commissary are prohibited. The prison commissary advised inmates to cover their bodies with bras and to avoid wearing tight pants. Some believed they were being punished in order to stop prison workers looking at them.

Advocates for inmates claim that the task force completely ignored them. Local union officials saw the entire trip as a way to placate Congress and claimed they had been asking agency leaders to visit them for months. The week ended with prison workers doubting that anything would change.

Is there any hope for the new person in charge? It's possible it's too early to know. Jusino was Dublin's first permanent guardian since Garcia, who was placed on administrative leave before Garcia's arrest. He started work a week prior to Carvajal and his task force arrived.

She is the daughter of a former federal prison warden and has been working in federal prisons ever since 1998. Before being assigned to Dublin, she was an associate warden in two prisons, and the warden at Victorville, California's federal prison, which is about 71 miles northeastern of Los Angeles.

She insists that change will occur -- and that it must.

"The trust with our inmate population has been broken, which is unacceptable. Jusino states that it's been broken by our staff and the public. "We must show that we are committed to this."

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