Dublin prison now has most cameras in the west, women still complain of sex assault

The federal all-women's prison in Dublin, which earned the notorious "Rape Club" nickname, now has the most security cameras of any prison in the western region, government attorneys said, while incarcerated women are still complaining of sexual assault and poor healthcare.

FCI Dublin currently has 385 cameras online, the most of any prison across 19 institutions, the US Attorneys Office said Monday in court filings. Last year at this time, there were 198.

The cameras – or lack thereof – are relevant as they became one of the several flashpoints during the trials of several correctional officers found guilty of sexual assault at the prison, including the trial of former Warden Ray Garcia, who was sentenced to nearly six years in prison himself.  Officers knew the places that had blind spots and took incarcerated women there to have sex, knowing there would be no visual evidence, prison employees and women testified. 

This was just one of the many positive changes at FCI Dublin, US attorneys Jesse Laslovich, Abbie JN Cziok, Mark Steger Smith and Timothy Tatarka filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California, responding to a class action suit filed by the California Coalition for Women Prisoners in Oakland in August.  

The US attorneys are representing the Bureau of Prisons. Other changes they cited include a recap of the eight officers who have been indicted by the government for sexual assault, the 19 additional employees placed on leave during sexual assault investigations, completely new management at FCI Dublin and the robust mental and psychological care the incarcerated women are now receiving. 

"The overwhelming majority" of the women's complaints center on "past misconduct," by officers who have been prosecuted, terminated, transferred, investigated, placed on leave, cleared or died, the BOP lawyers wrote. "The few remaining declarations alleging more recent misconduct demonstrate that BOP has promptly addressed those allegations and no threat remains."

The US attorneys continued that the women can not claim that there is still "irreparable harm" at the prison because the BOP has been taking steps to address their complaints. 

The US attorneys did concede that there were problems in the past, but they don't exist anymore. 

"Undeniably, in the years leading up to the above-described investigation, FCI Dublin was afflicted with several problem corrections officers and supervisors who inflicted sexual abuse and harassment, who covered up such acts, and who retaliated against informers," the US attorneys wrote. "But when these problems were discovered and brought to light, BOP worked diligently alongside the FBI and OIG to remove the bad actors and otherwise remedy deficiencies at the facility. There is no ongoing problem for the Court to address via injunction."

But that's not how many women and attorneys representing the California Coalition for Women Prisoners see it. 

"It's ridiculous to claim everything is fine," one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Kara Janssen, told KTVU on Tuesday. "Of course, there continues to be harm. We have multiple reports that there is still ongoing sexual assault. We have reports of overly invasive strip searchers, officers walking into showers and in their cells when the women are changing. Officers who were walked off the job have now returned. And yes, there are still reports of retaliation."

As for the cameras, Janssen said that there are still plenty of dead spots around the prison which aren't captured by the technolgoy. Also, none of the correctional officers wear body cameras, which most local law enforcement officers do. 

Separately, Laura Denise Russell, a woman incarcerated at FCI Dublin, and her husband, contacted KTVU to describe how she is not receiving proper medical care. 

She said her right elbow was injured when a correctional officer shoved open her door on Oct. 4 and she has yet to receive an X-ray to see if her arm was fractured. She has also not received any inflammatory medication and her pain level is high. 

Plus, Russell said she came to the prison with prescriptions to help her with Ménière disease, which causes vertigo, and her thyroid. According to her, the prison will not give her those medications.

She said she was also denied a low sodium diet to help her curb her migraines. 

Russell said she's not alone either. Other incarcerated women have had no mammograms despite finding lumps in their breasts, have had their depression medications stopped and had no medical checks within 14 days of arrival. 

Janssen said that in her opinion, despite what the government claims, "there has been no meaningful change" at FCI Dublin.

That will only come, Janssen said, if there is some indepdent oversight in the form of a special master appointed to oversee the prison. 

And if there have been any changes for the better, Janssen said, they only came about as a result of "intense pressure," prompted by the class action suit. 

 Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@fox.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez