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Federal Women’s Prison is home to a ‘Rape Club’ environment

Federal Women’s Prison is home to a ‘Rape Club’ environment


Inside one of the only federal women’s prisons in the United States, inmates say they have been subjected to rampant sexual abuse by correctional officers and even the warden, and were often threatened or punished when they tried to speak up. Prisoners and workers at the federal correctional institution in Dublin, California, even have a name for it: “The rape club.” An Associated Press investigation has found a permissive and toxic culture at the Bay Area lockup, enabling years of sexual misconduct by predatory employees and cover-ups that have largely kept the abuse out of the public eye.

The Associated Press obtained documents from the federal Bureau of Prisons, including statements and recordings from prisoners. They also interviewed former and current prison employees and inmates. They also reviewed thousands of pages of court records relating to civil and criminal cases involving Dublin prison staff. Together, they detail how inmates’ allegations against members of the mostly male staff were ignored or set aside, how prisoners could be sent to solitary confinement for reporting abuse, and how officials in charge of preventing and investigating sexual misconduct were themselves accused of abusing inmates or neglecting their concerns.

In one instance, a female inmate said a man, who was her prison work supervisor, taunted her by remarking “let the games begin” when he assigned her to work with a maintenance foreman she accused of rape. Another worker claimed that he wanted to make inmates pregnant. The warden—the man in charge at Dublin—kept nude photos on his government-issued cellphone of a woman he is accused of assaulting. One inmate said she was “overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, and anger, and cried uncontrollably” after enduring abuse and retaliation at Dublin. Another said she thought about suicide after her cries for help were not answered. She now suffers severe anxiety and post-traumatic Stress disorder.

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Four arrests have been made in Dublin over allegations that are part of a larger problem at the Bureau of Prisons. In 2020, the same year that some women at Dublin complained, there was 422 complaints about staff-on-inmate abuse in the system of 122 prisons with 153,000 inmates. The agency stated that it had only confirmed four of those complaints, while the investigation into the remaining 290 is ongoing. It would not say whether the allegations were concentrated in women’s prisons or spread throughout the system. You can read the entire investigation.

(Read more women’s prison stories.

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