At Federal Women's Prison, a 'Rape Club' Environment

The AP finds widespread abuse and cover-ups at California's Dublin facility
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 6, 2022 8:20 AM CST
At Federal Women's Prison, a 'Rape Club' Environment
The Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif.   (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Inside one of the only federal women’s prisons in the United States, inmates say they have been subjected to rampant sexual abuse by correctional officers and even the warden, and were often threatened or punished when they tried to speak up. Prisoners and workers at the federal correctional institution in Dublin, California, even have a name for it: “The rape club.” An Associated Press investigation has found a permissive and toxic culture at the Bay Area lockup, enabling years of sexual misconduct by predatory employees and cover-ups that have largely kept the abuse out of the public eye.

The AP obtained internal federal Bureau of Prisons documents, statements and recordings from inmates, interviewed current and former prison employees and inmates, and reviewed thousands of pages of court records from criminal and civil cases involving Dublin prison staff. Together, they detail how inmates’ allegations against members of the mostly male staff were ignored or set aside, how prisoners could be sent to solitary confinement for reporting abuse, and how officials in charge of preventing and investigating sexual misconduct were themselves accused of abusing inmates or neglecting their concerns.

In one instance, a female inmate said a man, who was her prison work supervisor, taunted her by remarking “let the games begin” when he assigned her to work with a maintenance foreman she accused of rape. Another worker claimed he wanted to get inmates pregnant. The warden—the man in charge at Dublin—kept nude photos on his government-issued cellphone of a woman he is accused of assaulting. One inmate said she was “overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, and anger, and cried uncontrollably” after enduring abuse and retaliation at Dublin. Another said she contemplated suicide when her cries for help went unheeded and now suffers from severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The allegations at Dublin, which so far have resulted in four arrests, are endemic of a larger problem within the beleaguered Bureau of Prisons. In 2020, the same year some of the women at Dublin complained, there were 422 complaints of staff-on-inmate sexual abuse across the system of 122 prisons and 153,000 inmates. The agency said it substantiated only four of those complaints and that 290 are still being investigated. It would not say whether the allegations were concentrated in women’s prisons or spread throughout the system. Read the full investigation.

(Read more women's prisons stories.)

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