FCI Dublin warden pushes back on special master's authority; employees refuse to report for duty

In her first public statement since being appointed on the day of an FBI raid at the soon-to-close federal women's prison in Dublin, Warden Nancy T. McKinney told a judge that she had no authority to delay the closure of FCI Dublin. 

In court documents filed on Tuesday, McKinney said that the Bureau of Prisons had planned the closure of the Federal Correctional Institute at Dublin for "many years" and the agency agrees that the situation needs "immediate change," partly as a result of "significant lack of health services and severe understaffing." 

McKinney told U.S. District Court Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers that the special master she named on April 5 to oversee reforms at the prison does not have the legal authority to slow down the closure of the prison – announced suddenly on Monday – and that any delay of the shutdown would be "counterproductive." 

She also wrote that the "logistical details involved with the mass transfer…cannot be changed on the fly. Extensive resources and employee hours have already been invested in the move." 

Sources have told KTVU that all the women were supposed to be shipped out by Friday. 

McKinney said that the closure was kept under wraps for so long because closing a federal prison is "highly sensitive and cannot become public in advance..due to serious safety and security risks to all involved."

FCI Dublin is a minimum-security prison where most women have been convicted of drug trafficking. Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicty Huffman were incarcerated there for their roles in the national college admissions scandal. 

There are six other minimum- and low-security women's federal prisons in the United States; none are in California. 

FCI Dublin has also been a national embarrassment as eight correctional officers have been charged with sex crimes; seven so far have been convicted and sentenced to prison themselves. 

Several stakeholders, including a U.S. congressman, speculate that the closure is retaliation for the court-mandated oversight. 

In March, Gonzalez Rogers ordered a special master over the prison as a result of a class action lawsuit filed by attorneys representing eight of those sexual assault survivors. This was the first time in the United States that a federal prison has been placed under such oversight, which – with the prison's closing – seems like it will last for less than two weeks. 

When Gonzalez Rogers learned about the prison's closure, she immediately issued an order early Monday afternoon, demanding that Special Master Wendy Still review all the women's paperwork to make sure they would be transferred to the proper location, released to home confinement or halfway house, or granted compassionate release.

The transfer of women stopped after that order, and many women have contacted KTVU to say that they are in limbo. They were told to pack a duffel and throw their personal belongings away that don't fit in the bags given to them. But they said they are confused whether they are leaving or not. 

Lance Sumpter, whose daughter is being held at FCI Dublin, said his daughter lost about $200 worth of personal goods because she was limited as to what she could pack. She had to toss toiletries, books, yarn, clothes, pictures and other sentimental items. 

Sumpter also told KTVU that on Tuesday, 60 women were taken to a medical appointment to make sure they were safe to move. They were all put in shackles and put on a bus.

"And they sat there all day," he said. "That seems to me like very unorganized and then unprepared for what's really going on."

According to his daughter, 30 women were returned to FCI Dublin and 30 were transferred off site. 

It's not just the women who are confused and upset. 

As a result of the closure, McKinney also told the judge that the 200 employees at FCI Dublin are very "frustrated with the uncertainty," even though they were promised they wouldn't their jobs. 

However, the closest federal prison is a maximum security male penitentiary in Atwater, Calif. – a two-hour drive from Dublin. 

Employees were given the day off work on Monday to "deal with the news" and about "90% of the local FCI Dublin staff left for work for the remainder of threw way." 

Many have refused to report for duty at an "already understaffed facility," McKinney wrote, adding that the BOP brought in employees from other institutions to help.

Several incarcerated women told KTVU that they saw US marshals and FBI agents supervising the prison over the last few days. 

McKinney said that since Monday, FCI Dublin employees have "suffered from a significant morale decline."

Gonzalez Rogers has not yet responded to McKinney's motion. 

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