California women's prison known as 'rape club' needs outside oversight, judge rules

A section of the Federal Correctional Institution is shown in Dublin, Calif., Monday, March 11, 2024. Federal investigators on Monday were again searching a troubled women's prison in California, seizing computers and documents in an apparent escalation of a yearslong sexual abuse investigation that previously led to charges against a former warden and other employees. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Eight staff members at the Federal Correctional Institution, including a warden, have been indicted on sexual abuse charges. The judge determined inmates are still at risk. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

A women's federal prison in Alameda County with an ugly history of sexual abuse of inmates by staff needs to be overseen by an outside monitor, a federal judge has ruled.

In a decision released Friday, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ordered the appointment of a special master to implement reforms and other judicial orders at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, where eight different members of the staff, including a warden, have been indicted on federal sexual abuse charges. Six have been sentenced.

The judge called the prison a "dysfunctional mess."

"The situation can no longer be tolerated. The facility is in dire need of immediate change," said Gonzalez Rogers in her order.

Because of the Bureau of Prisons' repeated failures to initiate change at the facility, where sexual abuse of an inmate was reported as recently as November, Gonzalez Rogers decided the special master was necessary.

Read more: 'Every woman's worst nightmare': Lawsuit alleges widespread sexual abuse at California prisons for women

The ruling comes in a class-action lawsuit filed by eight women who were imprisoned at FCI Dublin. The women say that despite the arrests and charges brought against numerous staff members, abuse has continued.

The low-security prison and its adjacent satellite camp have been so plagued by sexual abuse allegations that the prison has come to be known as "the rape club."

The judge's order came just three days after a third warden was ousted at the prison since Warden Ray Garcia was convicted of sexually assaulting numerous inmates.

The ouster of the most recently installed warden, Art Dulgov, coincided with an FBI raid on the facility and the removal of three other top managers. Dulgov and his staff are accused of retaliating against a woman who testified in the class-action lawsuit.

A major dispute in the current litigation is whether incarcerated women at FCI Dublin are still in danger of sexual abuse, the judge wrote in her decision. While many said during the judge's nine-hour visit to the facility that they don't fear sexual abuse, the judge determined that there is still a risk.

"Approximately 20 officers have been accused of misconduct, investigations are in progress, and they remain on administrative leave. Taken as a whole, the record undermines the government’s argument that the Court should be confident that risk of sexual misconduct has been eradicated," the judge wrote.

The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the pending case.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.