Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Feds headed to trial on abuse claims from shuttered Bay Area prison

More than 600 inmates will see a trial on their claims that federal employees abused them and maintained a system to prevent people reporting mistreatment within the walls of FCI Dublin.

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — The federal Bureau of Prisons faces a 2025 trial on claims that it knew of and maintained a system allowing officers at a San Francisco Bay Area prison to abuse and mistreat inmates. 

In the first public court hearing since the feds abruptly shut down FCI Dublin last month, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers set a trial date of June 23, 2025. 

Despite demands from the feds for nine months to get through discovery, Rogers ordered the parties to finish written discovery requests by Oct. 31.

For months, Rogers heard testimony from incarcerated women who brought a class action this past August challenging the government's handling of multiple individual lawsuits claiming decades of sexual abuse at the prison. They say the feds enabled a pattern of rampant sexual abuse of incarcerated people with inadequate policies to detect and prevent mistreatment. 

Rogers on Wednesday said the case is unique and needs an aggressive timeline toward a trial.

“At this point, it seems to me the landscape has changed,” the Barack Obama appointee said, referring to the government's moving more than 600 incarcerated women to facilities across the country.

At a press conference Wednesday, the plaintiffs said they are glad Rogers is advancing a trial. Advocates called for the government to free people from the prison which they say is not only plagued by sexual abuse, but also hazardous mold, asbestos and inadequate health care.

Amaris Montes, a Rights Behind Bars attorney representing the plaintiffs, said they seek to hold officers and the Bureau of Prisons accountable for abuse, and maintaining a system where those abuses can continue while people are afraid of or punished for reporting them.

“The BOP believes that by shuttering the doors of the facility, it will somehow avoid accountability by moving our clients outside of the physical walls of Dublin,” Montes said. “We know that the problems exist outside of Dublin, and the same things are happening at other BOP facilities.”

Erin Neff, advocate at California Coalition for Women Prisoners, said, “We are hearing egregious reports of abuse and neglect, housing that is dangerous and inhumane and overcrowded and people not getting prior needs addressed."

She added, “The women housed together from Dublin are having amazing community and supporting each other. This is becoming a bigger spotlight nationally."

Montes said government officials have not given definitive answers to complaints submitted about where people or their property may be, despite Rogers ordering the bureau in April to update records of all inmates being transferred to ensure they're sent to the correct location. She said that her clients report ongoing transportation and property issues, and that she thinks some inmates’ property may have been lost or destroyed.

She said the plaintiffs and the government will discuss a settlement, but her clients also seek expansive policy changes within the bureau. "There isn’t really a concrete settlement offer at this point. We do not plan to settle until we have these meaningful changes," she said.

Neff said the litigation’s goal is to push the government to reconsider how people are incarcerated, and change a system designed to cut costs rather than prioritize people’s basic needs. She criticized bureau director Collette Peters for transferring women overnight in “inhumane” conditions, knowing that nearly all inmates are abuse survivors and experienced serious trauma without support before or after incarceration.

Rogers on Monday ordered the special master she appointed in March to continue handling the cases of more than 600 women. Many filed motions for miscellaneous relief following the prison closure, claiming that they suffered inhuman conditions during the operation transporting them to facilities in other states. Master Wendy Still will report on the prison's conditions before and during its closure while identifying and tracking compassionate release requests.

The closure comes despite officials’ assertions that reforms were underway to prevent abuse of incarcerated people. In 1998, the bureau settled claims that FCI Dublin officers placed incarcerated women in a men’s solitary confinement unit and allowed rape — and agreed to implement numerous reforms. ​​

In 2019, the Congressional House Subcommittee on National Security determined widespread misconduct in the federal prison system was tolerated, routinely covered up or ignored. An Associated Press investigation in 2021 found a culture of abuse and cover-ups persisted for years at the prison.

At least eight FCI Dublin employees face charges of sexually abusing inmates with five having pleaded guilty. Warden Ray J. Garcia, 55, was last year sentenced to six years in prison, and other officers and staff either await sentencing or face similar lawsuits claiming abuse.

Follow @nhanson_reports
Categories / Civil Rights, Government, Trials

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.