FCI Dublin: Judge orders unprecedented 'special master' over troubled prison

A federal judge on Friday ordered a "special master" to oversee the goings-on at the Federal Correctional Institute at Dublin – the first time a Bureau of Prisons facility has been placed under such oversight in U.S. history.

In a scathing court order, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers wrote that "FCI Dublin is a dysfunctional mess. The situation can no longer be tolerated. The facility is in need of dire change." 

"The Court finds the Bureau of Prisons has proceeded sluggishly with intentional disregard of the inmates' constitutional rights despite being fully apprised of the situation for years," she wrote. 

Her order comes after several incarcerated women sued FCI Dublin over being sexually assaulted and retaliated against for speaking out – and that those issues still persist today despite vows from the new prison management that the culture has changed for the better.

It also comes five days after the FBI raided the prison and the BOP removed the warden and three other top administrators for reasons that have not been made public. 

The judge's order and the FBI operation are not related, although the timing shows an increased scrutiny of the already troubled prison. 

The judge did not specify who the special master would be, only that she would choose one based on recommendations from the plaintiffs and the BOP. 

She also granted the California Coalition for Women Prisons class certification for their lawsuit. 

"I'm extremely pleased," Kara Janssen, an attorney representing some of the sexual assault survivors told KTVU. "It's about time."

Her colleague, Susan Beaty, noted how historic this decision was. 

"It's a huge deal," Beaty said. "It's absolutely warranted. So many people in Dublin have told us they're not safe." 

Lisa Boyer's niece is at FCI Dublin. Without going into too much detail, Boyer told KTVU that her niece is dealing with "really aggressive officers."  Boyer said she is "overjoyed" that a special master will be appointed over the prison of all-women. 

Both the BOP and Asst. U.S. Attorney Madison Mattioli said they had no comment. 

In an earlier email, Bureau of Prisons spokesman Donald Murphy told KTVU that there has never been a special master in BOP history.

A special master is appointed by a court to ensure that judicial orders are carried out. In this case, the orders would most likely mandate that women inside FCI Dublin get access to their lawyers and that federal Prison Rape Elimination Act laws are followed, as two examples.

A special master was appointed to the California state prison system in 1995 after a federal court ruled that it did not provide adequate mental health care.

And locally, Oakland police, for example, have an independent monitor, who oversees the reforms are taking place under the watch of a federal judge. This oversight, similar to what a special master would do, has been going on in Oakland for 20 years. 

Gonzalez Rogers said she wanted the special master's help in getting the prison into compliance.

Despite the fact that eight correctional officers, including former Warden Ray Garcia, have been charged with sex crimes and seven of them so far have been found guilty, the judge did acknowledge that she does not think that the "sexualized environment" of the prison is as bad as it was several years ago. 

The judge toured the prison on Feb. 14, and during that visit many women told her that rape and sexual assault weren't as prevalent as it had been in the last five years.

Still, Gonzalez Rogers noted that the women in the lawsuit "presented incidents of sexual misconduct that occurred as recently as November of 2023."

But she did note that the culture of retaliation still persists, noting that women who testified before her in January were often put into punitive cells afterward, and she said former Warden Art Dulgov's responses to the women were "deaf" and "entitled." 

Dulgov was removed from his post on Monday during the FBI raid of the prison.

He did not respond to a call or email seeking comment. 

"As the Court finds herein, because of its inability to promptly investigate the allegations that remain, and the ongoing retaliation against incarcerated persons who
report misconduct, BOP has lost the ability to manage with integrity and trust," the judge wrote.  "The repeated installation of BOP leadership who fail to grasp and address the situation strains credulity."

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