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US Representatives Call for Investigation Into Abrupt East Bay Prison Shutdown

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Wire fencing and green grass in front of a prison structure.
The Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin, a prison for women, in Dublin on April 8. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Updated 1:30 p.m. Friday

Ten U.S. lawmakers are calling for a full investigation into the way the federal government abruptly shut down Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Dublin last month.

The demand for an investigation comes as the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) faces nearly 60 lawsuits, including a class action lawsuit, over sexual assault and retaliation by officers against women incarcerated at the low-security facility. Nearly 600 women who were housed at FCI Dublin before its recent closure have since transferred to facilities across the country, sending many hundreds of miles away from their families and attorneys.

“It’s outrageous,” Congressman Mark DeSaulnier, who represents the district FCI Dublin is based, told KQED. “This is an endemic cultural problem in the Bureau of Prisons. … We’re going to look at the whole damn department and we will get to the bottom of how a federal agency behaves the way it does.”

In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, the 10 lawmakers are requesting hearings on how the prison closure was conducted, along with past reports of abuse at FCI Dublin and increased oversight across BOP facilities.


“We have heard from former inmates who were recently released, family of inmates who have since been transferred from FCI Dublin, and advocates — all of whom have told us about shocking abuses that took place during the mass inmate transfers,” the letter reads. “This level of disregard for human dignity cannot be tolerated.”

On April 5, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers appointed Special Master Wendy Still to oversee FCI Dublin’s compliance with federal law, such as the Prison Rape Elimination Act and other constitutional requirements. It is the first oversight position of its kind in BOP history.

Shortly after, BOP responded by completely shutting down FCI Dublin, which has been embroiled in sexual assault allegations for decades. Since then, several women have alleged rampant mistreatment throughout the transfer process, including lack of access to bathrooms and medications, as well as hostile and abusive behavior from guards at their new facility.

“The fact that (BOP) would basically blow off a judge and the court system and have such disrespect tells me that this is a much larger problem,” DeSaulnier said.

The most recent series of scandals first started unraveling following an investigation by the Associated Press in 2021. It revealed a culture of abuse and cover-ups that had persisted for years at the low-security federal women’s prison.

Eight former FCI Dublin correctional officers, including the former warden and chaplain, have been convicted and charged, and seven have been sentenced.

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10) along with Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-28), Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (CA-16), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-12), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), Congressman Adam Schiff (CA-30), Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA-14) all signed on to the letter sent Friday.

Several U.S. senators and members of Congress also sent letters to BOP Director Colette Peters and Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding accountability for past crimes and answers to outstanding questions.

“Committee investigations and hearings would allow Congress to address past and current issues and hear directly from decision makers in BOP and the Department of Justice about their plans for this facility, including how the closure was planned and executed and their efforts to ensure this sinister culture of abuse is not replicated in other BOP facilities,” the letter reads.

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