Despite a formal request five years ago for 52 additional security cameras to be installed at the federal prison in Dublin, an aide to U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier stated that “numerous locations” within the all-female facility did not appear to be under visual surveillance.
On March 4, an assistant to Congresswoman Speier reported that there did not appear to be any security cameras in the dining and commissary facilities, the recreation area, or the residential or housing areas, according to the congresswoman’s tour guide.
Speier’s office discovered that there are still 28 places within the facility that do not have a camera presence. Many cameras are “direct-feed” or “live feed” security cameras, which do not record what is going on in the room.
According to Speier and other imprisoned women, the security cameras are a crucial component in the effort to limit the widespread sexual abuse that has occurred and possibly continues to occur at the Federal Correctional Institute Dublin. Four guards, including former Warden Ray J. Garcia, have been accused by federal prosecutors of having sexual relations with female inmates, taking nude photographs of them, and engaging in other illegal activities since June.
In the wake of the well-publicized sex abuse crisis at FCI Dublin, security cameras are not a new concern for the institution, which is now subject to enhanced inspection by the Department of Justice.
Lack of security cameras
According to a 2017 report, more staffing levels and extra security cameras were sought especially to “assist in protecting against sexual abuse,”
According to the assessment, 52 additional cameras should be installed in the housing unit common area, the courtyard, the eating places, the entertainment spaces, and the lobby. According to the request, additional recording devices were required to “record and ensure proper use of the cameras.” according to the request. At that time, a total of $75,000 had been asked.
That entire request has not been fulfilled as of yet.
“We were also told cameras have been purchased and will be installed in the facility in the areas where much of the abuse has taken place previously,” Speier said in a statement to the television station KTVU. “Time will tell if Warden [Thahesha] Jusino and the BOP will stay true to their word on these reforms.”
Randilee Giamusso, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, refused to say how many surveillance cameras are now in place at FCI Dublin or how many more will be installed around the facility, dubbed the “rape club” by inmates and staff alike.
As Giamusso explained, “For security reasons, the BOP cannot elaborate on specific security measures or internal security practices,”
Giamusso, on the other hand, stated that a task team is now assessing the prison’s infrastructure, which includes the installation of cameras, to “protect the safety and security of inmates and staff,” which “is a priority.”
Recent claims of misbehavior at FCI Dublin “are, if true, reprehensible,” Giamusso stated in response to the charges.
In response to follow-up inquiries about why it has taken so long to purchase the cameras, Giamusso did not react. He also did not address the issue that many jails and prisons want personnel and inmates to be aware that they are being recorded to hold them accountable for their behavior. For example, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has made it known that deputies at the Santa Rita Jail, which is next door, are equipped with body cameras. Video monitors are installed in many cells to capture what is going on.
Following the resignation of the previous wardens, Thahesha Jusino, who took over this month after the previous two were implicated in a scandal, informed Speier and fellow Democratic members of Congress Eric Swalwell and Karen Bass that cameras had been ordered but had not yet been installed, according to the congresswoman’s office. There was no indication as to when this might take place.
Speier’s aide further stated that prison staff has access to the cameras and that there is no third-party control of the cameras from outside the jail, and that “the concern is that they could potentially delete or alter the footage.”
Speier’s spokesman pointed out that this is particularly concerning. The officer in charge of monitoring the footage was former Prison Safety Administrator John Russell Bellhouse, a correctional officer charged with having sexual encounters with incarcerated women. In contrast, others served as lookouts in 2020. Bellhouse has entered a not-guilty plea.
During an exclusive interview with KTVU earlier this month, Andrea Reyes, a formerly jailed woman at FCI Dublin, claimed that former correctional officer Ross Klinger would beat on her door and have sex with her while no one was looking.
She claims that the pandemic compounded her condition because she was frequently alone and not in a setting with other women at the time. She stated that video cameras would have most certainly assisted her in either preventing or documenting some of the sexual abuse she had experienced.
Additionally, Speier is concerned that jailed women are not receiving the medical, psychological, and vocational help or training they require to avoid becoming yet another recidivism statistic.
In a statement released by Speier, she said, “Warden Thahesha Jusino was upfront about the severity of the problems at the facility and admitted it has lost the trust of staff, the women imprisoned there, and the public,”