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Women at California prison dubbed the 'rape club' now worry where they'll be transferred

Keri Blakinger and Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Women

The sun was barely up at the Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin, California, but the prisoners knew there was something afoot.

The inmate workers still hadn’t left for their jobs that morning, and there were extra guards at the troubled federal facility in Northern California.

“We could tell these were not new officers,” Rhonda Fleming, a woman imprisoned at Dublin, told the Los Angeles Times in an email. “We knew they came from the men’s prison.”

But the women could only guess what was happening — and it made them tense.

After years of controversy, lawsuits and sexual abuse scandals, on Monday the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced plans to close the facility. But instead of bringing relief, for many prisoners the news sparked fear and confusion as the women worried about being moved far away from their families.

The facility in Dublin had been garnering headlines for years, and usually for nothing good. Inmates and their advocates cited problems with medical care, mold and overcrowding. But the prison was most notorious for a sex abuse scandal that earned it a reputation as the “rape club.”

 

After the FBI started making arrests in 2021, eight FCI Dublin employees — including a former warden — were charged with sexually abusing inmates. Several women sued the prison, and this year a federal judge appointed a special master to oversee the facility. Last month, federal authorities raided the facility, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons removed several of the top managers.

It was in the wake of all that, Fleming said, that several top prison officials burst into her housing unit around 7:30 a.m. on Monday. “FCI-Dublin is closing, all of you will be transferred by Friday,” Fleming remembered hearing the interim warden say. “That is all the information I have at this time.”

Federal officials in Washington announced the news publicly, saying “FCI Dublin is not meeting expected standards and that the best course of action is to close the facility.” Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters said the decision was made “after ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of those unprecedented steps and additional resources.”

Soon, lawyers for the women started getting calls as reporters informed them of Peters’ announcement. Michael Bien, whose law firm is handling the class-action suit, said that was the first he’d heard of the closure. It’s not clear what will happen to the prison, though officials said Monday that the closure “may be temporary but will certainly result in a mission change.”

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©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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