In response to Associated Press investigations that revealed widespread problems at the federal Bureau of Prisons, serious misconduct among correctional officers, and rampant sexual abuse at a California women’s prison, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee are demanding that Attorney General Merrick Garland take immediate action to reform the troubled federal Bureau of Prisons.
The new working group, and an angry letter
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), and California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla wrote a letter to Acting Attorney General Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco on Wednesday. They want the Justice Department to turn up a plethora of material on employee misbehavior and the protocols in place to prevent sexual assault from occurring.
Following the Associated Press’s reporting, the scandal-plagued Bureau has been subjected to increased scrutiny, as seen by the letter. Earlier this month, the Senate established a bipartisan working group to examine the federal prison system, and senators have started drafting legislation to improve supervision of the nation’s 122 federal prisons and detention centers, which are located around the country.
Many congressional committees are also looking into the Bureau of Prisons and its director, Michael Carvajal, who announced his resignation in January after coming under increased pressure for his leadership. Durbin had called for Carvajal’s removal after the Associated Press reported in November that more than 100 federal prison employees had been arrested, convicted, or sentenced for crimes since the beginning of 2019 and detailed several violent attacks inside federal prisons across the United States, according to Durbin. Then again later on.
“We write to urge you to take immediate action to address serious failures by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to operate federal prisons safely, securely, and effectively,” the senators wrote.
“BOP employs more than 36,000 individuals, the majority of whom are honest and dutiful. Still, the misconduct of even a small percentage of BOP staff can ravage the lives of individuals in the Bureau’s custody and damage the reputation and credibility of the institution.”
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. Sexual assault is categorically prohibited, (and legally) and the organization has said that it would continue to improve conditions in the Bureau of Prisons. Good luck with that pipe dream.
The Bureau, in addition to dealing with widespread corruption, has been dealing with many crises in recent years, including the rampant spread of the coronavirus within federal prisons, a failed response to the pandemic, dozens of escapes and deaths, and critically low staffing levels, which have hampered response times in emergencies, and cost the lives of over 280+ inmates.
According to the legislators, Garland and Monaco must submit information on the bureau’s training methods, procedures about the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, and statistics about complaints of sexual assaults occurring within federal prisons.
Womans Federal Prison – The Rape Club
This comes just weeks after the Associated Press revealed a permissive and toxic culture at the federal correctional institution in Dublin, California, where inmates claim they have been subjected to rampant sexual abuse by correctional officers and even by the warden and that they have been threatened or punished when they have attempted to speak out about their experiences. Prisoners and employees at Dublin referred to the facility as “the rape club” because of the widespread abuse.
Garcia is accused of assaulting one inmate while attempting to push him away and forcing her and another inmate to strip nude. At the same time, according to authorities, he went around the prison. He was also accused of photographing the ladies in their underwear, which were discovered on his personal laptop computer and government-issued smartphone during an FBI search on his workplace and home last summer.
She was in charge of teaching prison employees on sexual assault and harassment policies and ensuring compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA, which mandates frequent inspections of prisons to guarantee compliance. Garica has pleaded not guilty. When detectives spoke with the woman Garcia is suspected of abusing, she stated that one episode of abuse occurred when PREA officials visited the prison. Garcia, according to her, attacked her in a changing stall that was intended for PREA-compliant searches.
In the Bureau of Prisons, the claims at Dublin are symptomatic of a bigger problem that exists across the organization. In 2020, the year in which some of the women at Dublin lodged their complaints, there were 422 reports of staff-on-inmate sexual assault reported across the system’s 122 institutions and 153,000 prisoners, an increase from the previous year. According to the FBI, approximately 290 allegations are still under investigation, with only four of them having been proven.