U.S. Senators call FCI Dublin transfer of women 'appalling'

The Dublin Prison Solidarity Coalition protested near FCI Dublin ahead of its closure. April 19, 2024

Five U.S. senators are demanding that the Bureau of Prisons director provide them with information on how the agency prepared to close the troubled, all-women's prison in Dublin, including written plans to its employees on the "safe and humane release from custody." 

In a letter sent Wednesday to BOP Director Colette S. Peters, the senators wrote: "Given the exigency of this unfolding crisis, we request immediate action and an update today on efforts the Bureau is taking to ensure that those in your custody who are affected by the closure of FCI Dublin are afforded the care, dignity, and respect to which they are entitled."

The letter was signed by California's two senators, Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler, as well as U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia) and Richard Durbin (D-Illinois.)

The senators wrote that they will use the power of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and the Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism over the BOP to continue to "closely monitor" the closure of FCI Dublin.

KTVU reached out to the BOP for a comment, as well as the information the agency provided to the senators.

BOP spokesman Scott Taylor responded via email: "The Federal Bureau of Prisons responds directly to Members of Congress and their staff.  Out of respect and deference to Members, we do not share our Congressional correspondence with the media."

However, in a memo to staff on Wednesday, Peters commended her officers for their "tireless efforts in facilitating the successful transition" of women from FCI Dublin," which involved "careful planning and coordination to ensure the safe transfer of women to other facilities, with special attention given to their unique programming, medical, and mental health requirements."

The senator's letter comes after KTVU reported horrific-sounding stories of dozens of the 600 incarcerated women being transferred out of FCI Dublin, which Peters announced on April 15 would shut down, since she couldn't fix all the problems there. 

The closure came 10 days after a federal judge named a special master to oversee the prison – the first time in BOP history such oversight was ordered over one of its prisons. 

The problems at FCI Dublin include a rampant culture of sexual abuse where eight officers have been charged with sex crimes since 2022 – seven so far have already been found guilty and sent to prison themselves. 

Over the last several days, some of these women's families called their congress members to ask for help. 

Women described being shackled so tight they were bruised, being screamed at and told they were "whining bitches," and kept in the extreme cold and heat as bus drivers and officers blamed them for the prison shutting down.

A mother named Esther said her daughter was put on a bus last week from FCI Dublin, where she drove all night to Nevada, where the driver was driving "crazy" and "erratically."

When they asked where they were going, Esther wrote: "They were told none of your business, or SFTU, see, this is why Dublin is closing, you all need to learn to keep your mouths shut. I gave up my Saturday off to move you girls. The other CO said, ‘I came out of retirement to help move you bitches.’"

Esther then said the bus driver played a children’s recording of The Wheels on the Bus over and over again at full volume, and then played loud rap music with sexually explicit language about sex acts.

"He told them the more they fussed, the louder it was going to be," Esther wrote. "All thru the 12 hours they were called bitches. They were told they were the reason for the closing of Dublin. They should have kept their mouths shut."

Her daughter’s group ended up being taken to the Miami Detention Center, a high-rise prison with no video visits.

The senators said they were writing Peters to "address several alarming and disturbing" reports regarding the shutdown as well as the "subsequent transfer of hundreds of women in BOP custody" over the course of this last week. 

The senators said they have heard from constituents about inadequate medical attention, improper medical clearance for transport, lack of food and water, confiscation of property, mistreatment, harassment, neglect and abuse in transit. 

"This reporting is appalling and even more concerning in light of the well-documented abuses that have taken place previously at FCI Dublin," the letter states.  "Individuals in custody at FCI Dublin have long endured a toxic carceral culture marked by sexual assault, harassment, and medical neglect at the hands of BOP staff. 

"And now, while subjected to the deprivations and indignities of a flawed and rushed closure and transfer protocol, women in custody are reporting hostility and retaliation from BOP employees who blame them for the facility’s closure. This is unacceptable."

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