Reform of California ‘Rape-Club’ Prison is Progressing Slowly or Not At All - Report

Prison - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.05.2022
Dublin prison is one of six all-female prisons in the federal system. There were 422 complaints of sexual abuse of inmates by prison staff in 2020.
After an Associated Press investigation of a Dublin, California, prison known as the “rape club” came out in February, a task force was created to reform the prison, but inmates, inmate advocacy groups and prison worker union reps say progress has been slow, if it is being made at all.
The Federal Correctional Institute of Dublin sits 21 miles east of Oakland, California. It gained infamy and attention from Congress after an AP investigation revealed widespread sexual abuse and coverups by prison officials.
A month prior to the AP’s report, the head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Michale Carvajal, announced his resignation due to a cascade of issues during his tenure, but remains in the post while he waits for a replacement to be named.
Five Dublin prison workers have been charged with sexual abuse, including its former warden Ray J. Garcia. Garcia allegedly stripped down inmates and took pictures of them with his government-issued phone. When the FBI raided his office and home last summer, they found the photos still saved to his phone. Garcia has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
But the abuse didn’t start or end with Garcia. One inmate says she was repeatedly raped by a maintenance foreman and was taunted by other workers over the experience. When an internal prison investigator finally addressed the issue, the woman says she was punished by being sent to solitary confinement for three months and then was transferred to another prison.
This, along with the arrest of Garcia and other prison workers, caused Carvajal to create a task force and visit the prison himself. “You wanted my attention,” Carvajal reportedly told the inmates when he arrived, “so here I am.”
But Carvajal’s visit was itself rife with issues. Prison officials moved inmates out of the special administrative unit, where prisoners being punished reside, before his arrival to make it seem less full. They also lied to Carvajal, telling him that he couldn’t visit a unit because of a COVID-19 infection, when they actually did not want him to speak to inmates there.
But even Carvajal, hardly an advocate for inmates, seemed concerned about the lack of cameras in the prison. While the minimum security prison does have some cameras, it lacks them in the hallways and rooms where inmates were abused. Carvajal promised to fast track the installation of more cameras but seven weeks later, the AP reports that no new cameras have been installed.
Garcia’s replacement, Thahesha Jusino, took over just a week before the Carvajal task force arrived. She says reforming the prison will be a tall task. “It’s horrible. It’s absolutely horrible. I’ve never experienced anything like this. In my career, I’ve never been part of a situation like this. This is really unprecedented.”
The Dublin prison workers union, who has been asking for reforms at the prison for years, is less than enthusiastic about Carvajal’s visit “[The Bureau of Federal Prisons] is never proactive. They’re reactive,” union president Ed Canales told the AP. “They’re only doing this because Congress is on their ass and they know they have to act.”
After the task force left, prisoners say they were punished. Blankets were confiscated. Robes purchased from the prison commissary were also taken from prisoners, and the women were told to wear bras, cover their bodies and avoid tight pants. Some prisoners told the AP they felt they were being punished to prevent prison workers from leering at them.
California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat, toured the prison shortly after Carvajal’s visit. She, along with fellow California Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass and South Carolina Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace have introduced the Women in Criminal Justice Reform Act, legislation intended to address the issues of women prisoners.
In the meantime, it falls to the newly installed warden to make the reforms needed at Dublin prison. For now, Jusino is saying the right things. “The trust has been broken with our inmate population, which is beyond unacceptable. It’s been broken with our staff, and it has been broken with the public.” But until the needed reforms are implemented, it is unlikely that Dublin prison will shed its unfortunate moniker.
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