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Inmates testify about sexual abuse at FCI Dublin women's prison

Class action lawsuit filed over sexual abuse at FCI Dublin women's prison
Class action lawsuit filed over sexual abuse at FCI Dublin women's prison 01:19

DUBLIN – Following three days of testimony from incarcerated survivors of sexual abuse at Federal Correctional Institution Dublin, the legal teams representing the victims held a press conference Friday outside of U.S. District Court in Oakland. 

"The rot is much deeper than any one bad actor," said Oren Nimni, litigation director for Rights Behind Bars, a legal advocacy organization. "What you're hearing today, and what you're going to continue to hear, is that there is a systemic problem at FCI Dublin, and that requires a systemic solution."

Rights Behind Bars, the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, and the law firm Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP are representing the plaintiffs—abuse survivors and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners—in a federal class action lawsuit filed in August 2023 against the Bureau of Prisons, FCI Dublin officials and several individual officers. 

The attorneys have requested preliminary injunctive relief to address the current emergency conditions at FCI Dublin. From Wednesday to Friday this week, U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers heard the plaintiffs' testimony and will later determine whether she will order immediate changes.

The complaint states, "Officers, supervisors, and leadership throughout FCI Dublin were and continue to be aware of the ongoing sexual abuse at the facility, and not only fail to prevent it but also affirmatively take actions that allow abuse to continue. Staff protect their abusive colleagues by failing to investigate claims or respond meaningfully, and by retaliating against those who report abuse ... It is this system of protection, conspiracy, and obstruction which allows the 'rape club' to continue."

During the press conference, Jane Courant of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners said that while FCI Dublin interim Warden Arthur Dulgov spoke in the courtroom about prison changes that have enabled inmates to report confidentially or access health care, the CCWP team continues to hear from inmates of ongoing abuse and retaliation.

CCWP has approximately 220 members at multiple correctional facilities including FCI Dublin, according to the complaint. Courant said in March, CCWP learned from inmates that they were being abruptly cut off from life-saving prescription medication.

"(Dulgov) had all kinds of wonderful things to say about all of the regulations and all of the laws and how they were retraining staff," Courant said of the new interim warden. "He has not a clue as to what is going on on the ground ... Many of the people who testified today said it's worse. It's worse than it was before because (they) are suffering retaliation."

A low-security federal prison for female offenders, FCI Dublin is currently holding 704 total inmates, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website. The rampant sexual abuse and retaliation by staff at the facility gained national attention in 2021 when then Warden Ray Garcia—who also directed training on the Prison Rape Elimination Act—was first charged with sexually abusing a ward. He was later sentenced to nearly six years in prison for abusing three female inmates.

Since then, additional officers, staff and even a former chaplain who abused women seeking spiritual guidance have been named as offenders. Eight, including Garcia, have been charged with sexual misconduct for incidents spanning from 2019 into 2021. Additional charges are likely, the complaint states, as plaintiffs have named others for abuse that took place as recently as last year.

The stories of others who have come forward show a long history of abuse at FCI Dublin. Former inmate Robin Lucas spoke during the press conference after listening to the testimonies.

"Thirty years ago, I was placed in Dublin, and I was abused with other women. I think I was the first to speak out," Lucas said. "I thought 30 years ago that this would not happen anymore ... I sat there in court, and I heard exactly what I heard 30 years ago. I went into the court bathroom and cried like a brand-new baby, because I thought this would not be 30 years later." 

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