Eight inmates at a San Francisco Bay Area jail, known as the “rape club” by both inmates and staff, filed a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons on Wednesday, alleging that sexual abuse and exploitation had continued despite the former warden and several former officers’ conviction.
The current warden and 12 previous and present guards are named in the case, which was filed in Oakland by attorneys for the detainees and the advocacy group California Coalition for Women Prisoners. The Dublin facility’s personnel and the Bureau of Prisons are accused of not doing enough to stop sexual abuse that dates back to the 1990s.
At the jail, located about 21 miles east of Oakland, an Associated Press investigation last year discovered a culture of abuse and cover-ups that had persisted for years. As a result of that research, Congress began to scrutinise the prison system more closely and the federal Bureau of Prisons promised to address issues and alter the prison’s culture.
Amaris Montes, an attorney for Rights Behind Bars who is representing the plaintiffs, claimed that the Bureau of Prisons has failed to confront widespread wrongdoing in its ranks and ensure the security of individuals entrusted to its care.
“Individual prisoners have had to endure rape, groping, voyeurism, forced stripping, sexually explicit comments on an everyday basis and so much more,” she said.
In order to guarantee that inmates have access to a private location to report abuse, the complaint asks for a third party to oversee the facility. Additionally, it demands that all victims have access to legal representation, medical care, and mental health services.
The plaintiffs, who are requesting that the case be certified as a class action, also want people who are in the country illegally to be granted a “U visa,” a special immigration programme for victims of crime, and compassionate release for victims.
According to Donald Murphy, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, the agency declines to comment on cases that are currently in court or being investigated.
Former warden Ray J. Garcia was given a 70-month prison term in March for sexually assaulting three female detainees and making them pose naked for pictures in their cells. Garcia was the first prison employee to go on trial and was one of eight staff members, including a chaplain, who was accused of assaulting inmates.
Inmates who report infractions continue to face retaliation, including being placed in solitary confinement and having all of their possessions taken away, according to Montes, who said that a sexual abuse culture still exists at the low-security prison.
“We went to visit the prison yesterday and we heard additional stories of recent sexual abuse within this last week,” Montes said. “The BOP has tried to address individual officers and is trying to make it seem like it’s an issue of bad actors or bad apples, but it’s really a systemic issue.”
A former prisoner at the federal jail said that an officer had sexually assaulted her after promising to secure her compassionate release. Unless they consent to be named, The Associated Press does not identify those who allege they have experienced sexual abuse.
She claimed to have seen both the sexual assault of other prisoners and the retaliation against those who denounced the misconduct of the guards.
She claimed that she served her time at the prison from 2019 to 2022 after being found guilty of narcotics trafficking. She claimed that after her cellmate reported being abused, she was put in solitary confinement and lost all of her possessions.
“They were supposed to protect us because we were in their custody, but personally, I was abused and I saw officers abuse women, especially those who had been there longer. I saw them harassing them, grabbing, groping them,” she said in Spanish, her voice breaking.