DUBLIN, Calif. - Despite a formal request five years ago to install 52 additional security cameras at the federal prison in Dublin, an aide from U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier said there were "numerous locations" inside the all-women's facility that still did not appear to have the visual oversight, KTVU has learned.
Specifically, the Speier aide, who was on a tour with the congresswoman on March 4, said it did not appear there were security cameras in the dining and commissary areas, the recreational area and residential or housing areas.
Speier's office told KTVU that they learned there are still 28 spaces within the facility that have no camera presence and that many of the cameras are "direct-feed" or "live feed" security cameras, which means they do not record what is happening.
The security cameras are an important piece, according to Speier and other incarcerated women, in trying to curb the rampant sexual abuse that has occurred, and perhaps is still occurring, at Federal Correctional Institute Dublin. That's where four guards – including former Warden Ray J. Garcia – were charged by federal prosecutors with having sex with incarcerated women, taking their nude photos and other illegal behavior since June.
Security cameras are not a new issue for FCI Dublin, now under increased scrutiny by the Department of Justice in the wake of its nationally publicized sex abuse scandal.
Increased staffing levels and more security cameras were requested specifically to "assist in protecting against sexual abuse," in a 2017 report obtained by KTVU.
The report called for 52 more cameras in the housing unit common area, the compound, in the eating areas, the recreation areas and the lobby. In addition, recording devices were also requested to "record and ensure proper use of the cameras." At the time, the total amount requested was $75,000.
That full request has not yet been filled.
"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 KTVU. "Time will tell if Warden [Thahesha] Jusino and the BOP will stay true to their word on these reforms."
Bureau of Prisons spokesperson Randilee Giamusso would not answer how many security cameras are currently at FCI Dublin, or how many more will be placed around the facility, which has been notoriously nicknamed the "rape club" by inmates and staff.
"For security reasons, the BOP cannot elaborate on specific security measures or internal security practices," Giamusso said.
However, Giamusso added that a task force is reviewing the infrastructure of the prison, which includes adding cameras, to "protect the safety and security of inmates and staff," which "is a priority."
The recent allegations of misconduct at FCI Dublin "are, if true, reprehensible," Giamusso wrote.
Giamusso did not respond to followup questions regarding why it's taken so long to buy the cameras and address the issue that many jails and prisons want employees and inmates to know they are being recorded to hold them accountable for their actions. For example, next door at Santa Rita Jail, the Alameda County Sheriff has publicized the fact that deputies wear body cameras and there are video monitors recording the goings-on in many of the cells.
According to Speier's office, the new warden, Thahesha Jusino, who started this month after the previous two were embroiled in scandal, told the congresswoman, along with U.S. Reps. Eric Swalwell and Karen Bass, that cameras have been ordered but not yet installed. No timeline was given for when that will happen.
In addition, Speier's aide said that prison staff have access to the cameras with no offsite third-party oversight and that "the concern is that they could potentially delete or alter the footage."
Speier's aide noted that this is especially troubling since one of the officers in charge of monitoring this footage was former Prison Safety Administrator John Russell Bellhouse, a correctional officer who was charged having sexual encounters with incarcerated women while others served as lookouts in 2020. Bellhouse has pleaded not guilty.
Andrea Reyes, a formerly incarcerated woman at FCI Dublin, told KTVU in an exclusive interview this month that former correctional officer Ross Klinger would bang on her door to have sex with her and no one would see what was going on.
The pandemic exacerbated the situation, she said, because she was often alone and not in settings with other women. She said that video cameras would have likely helped to either prevent or document some of the sexual abuse she endured.
In addition to the camera issue, Speier is also worried that incarcerated women are not getting the kind of medical, psychological and vocational support or training that they need to avoid becoming another recidivism statistic.
"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," Speier said.