upper waypoint

Biden Administration Seeks to Dismiss Lawsuit Over Bay Area Women's Prison Abuses

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

The Federal Bureau of Prisons abruptly shut down FCI Dublin in April. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is seeking to dismiss a class action lawsuit demanding systemic changes at a federal East Bay women’s prison where eight former officers have been convicted of sexual assault.

Attorneys filed the class action lawsuit last August on behalf of women formerly incarcerated at Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin, who alleged rampant sexual assault and retaliation by officers at the low-security facility. But, BOP abruptly shut down the facility in April, shortly after a federal judge ordered a special master to oversee changes aimed at improving conditions at the prison.

Now that the facility has shuttered, the government is asking a federal judge to dismiss the class action case entirely.

“The injunctive claims addressing conditions of confinement at FCI Dublin—a facility where no inmates are confined—must be dismissed as moot,” the motion filed on Tuesday reads.

In addition to the class action case, FCI Dublin is facing nearly 60 lawsuits around sexual assault, retaliation and medical neglect from allegations dating back to around 2021, when an Associated Press investigation found a culture of abuse and cover-ups that had persisted for years at the low-security federal women’s prison, which had more than 650 inmates.


Both the BOP and the court recognized that FCI Dublin was in “dire need of immediate change,” the motion reads.

In early April, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers appointed Wendy Still as the first-ever “special master” for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and ordered her to produce a report on conditions at the facility and facilitate mandatory changes at the prison, including improving sexual assault reporting protocols and access to mental and physical health care.

The Biden administration responded by shutting down the facility and sending hundreds of women previously housed there to prisons across the country, in many cases far away from family and attorneys.

Advocates for women previously incarcerated at FCI Dublin say dismissing the class action lawsuit would ignore the life-threatening patterns of abuse that women at the prison had to endure — and in some cases at the facilities they were moved to.

“If BOP succeeds in its plan to evade court scrutiny, there will be no accountability as they continue to abuse and retaliate against people behind closed doors,” Emily Shapiro of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, an organizational plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, said in an email. “The next person assaulted by one of their guards or punished for coming forward will know that the Biden BOP and Director Colette Peters are responsible.”

Related Coverage

Nearly 60 plaintiffs’ individual damages cases are still active. If Dublin is eventually reopened, it will not be used to house women again, according to the government’s motion.

Meanwhile, members of Congress are ramping up their inquiries into how the BOP handled closing FCI Dublin and are seeking an explanation from BOP Director Collette Peters on the chaotic situation.

“In the weeks since BOP announced the closure of FCI Dublin on April 15, we have heard … shocking abuses that allegedly took place during the mass AIC transfers,” reads a letter sent to Peters on June 13, signed by nearly two dozen Congress members. The letter lists several of the abuses women have alleged took place during the transfer process, including whistleblower retaliation, inhumane treatment, and withholding of medical care. “This level of disregard for human dignity cannot be tolerated.”

Despite BOP’s order to close FCI Dublin, Special Master Wendy Still has continued her assignment and submitted a report to the court about the conditions and culture at the facility based on interviews and various records released to her for the assessment.

That report has not yet been released to the public, and the federal government is simultaneously seeking to keep it private, according to another motion filed on Monday, calling its findings “demonstrably incorrect.”

“At every turn, the BOP has tried to silence incarcerated people and avoid public scrutiny. For years, they failed to prevent rampant sexual abuse and allowed survivors to be punished with solitary confinement simply for speaking out,” Kendra Drysdale, who was formerly incarcerated at Dublin, said in an email. “These are not the actions of an agency interested in public safety or community accountability. They are not the actions of an agency that takes seriously learning from its mistakes and protecting the people in its custody.”

lower waypoint
next waypoint