FCI Dublin: Mysterious skin spots appear on incarcerated women

Steven and Laura Russell. Photo: family. 

Mysterious skin spots, burst capillaries and bothersome rashes have begun to appear on dozens of incarcerated women at the Federal Correctional Institute at Dublin – another scourge at the scandal-plagued prison, better known for sexual abuse and retaliation.

Up to 40 women have reported the skin issues, according to information gleaned from court filings and Laura Russell, 66, who wrote KTVU a letter to document what she is going through.

"We are breaking out with what looks like various sizes, color and numbers of red spots," she wrote. "Some are small, like a fine point red marker. Others are big and red like a broken capillary." 

Russell said she has these spots on her stomach, forehead and back. 

Her complaints are similar to at least two other women, who formally complained about these issues to U.S. District Court Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who visited the prison on Feb. 14, and documented the black mold and asbestos that have infiltrated the walls and air for years, and she ordered prison management to do something about it, including conducting an infectious disease inspection. 

"The red spots, she calls them blood spots, and they're pinpointed to maybe the size of a pea, and they're spreading all over her body," her husband, Steven Russell, told KTVU this week in an interview. "It started on her legs and back. And now they're on her stomach or breast, and they're just started on her face." 

The Russels said the symptoms began a couple of months ago. Laura Russell has been at FCI Dublin since September 2023 – and she said she has never had skin issues before this. 

She was sentenced to 40 months in prison for conspiring to commit money laundering. 

She told KTVU that a nurse came to examine her and diagnosed her with age spots or cherry hemangioma. 

She said other women have been told they have "sweat spots" and one was told "you scratched a pimple."  A nurse told one woman, "it will be interesting to see if yours goes away when you leave," Russell wrote. Two women that she knows of were told they needed followup blood work, Russell wrote.

In a statement, Bureau of Prisons spokesman Scott Taylor would not answer questions about the skin complaints or whether the black mold and asbestos problems had been remedied.

"For privacy, safety, and security reasons, the Federal Bureau of Prisons does not comment on matters related to pending litigation, ongoing legal proceedings, or ongoing investigations," he wrote.

FCI Dublin is being sued by 12 women in a case called the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, over sexual assault allegations.

Last week, Gonzalez Rogers noted that the prison was so "dysfunctional," she ordered a special master to be appointed to oversee changes there.

Susan Beaty, a lawyer who has helped Russell and others file paperwork on their medical situations, can't guess what the skin issues are being caused by.

But Beaty did say that FCI Dublin has not done enough to determine what is really going on. 

Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@foxtv.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez.