OAKLAND, Calif. - Sex abuse survivors at an all-women's prison in Dublin filed a sweeping and major class-action lawsuit on Wednesday, alleging that people incarcerated there have been raped, forced to undress in order to be released from cells, drugged, groped and targeted with threats of deportation, among other atrocities.
And despite several trials, including the conviction of FCI Dublin's former warden and charges against seven other correctional officers, the "rampant ongoing sexual abuse" continues to this day, the suit alleges.
"Plaintiffs, and the putative class members they represent, have endured horrific abuse and exploitation at the hands of facility staff," the suit alleges.
The federal Bureau of Prisons has been aware of these problems for decades, the suit alleges, and "has failed, and continues to fail, to take action to protect those in its care by preventing and addressing rampant staff sexual misconduct."
In addition, women at FCI Dublin have no way to safely report sexual misconduct. That's because survivors must frequently report to the same staff members who abused them or who allowed the abuse to occur, the suit alleges.
The 87-page suit was filed in U.S. District Court of Northern California on behalf of eight women against the BOP, Director Colette Peters, FCI Dublin Warden Thahesha Jusino and 12 correctional officers. The suit also contains the sworn declaration of 50 other women.
Notably, the former warden, Ray Garcia, who was convicted of sex crimes, was not listed as a defendant. But lawyers said he might be as the case progresses.
The attorneys representing the women are Susan Beaty, senior attorney at the California Collaborative of Immigrant Justice; Amaris Montes from Rights Behind Bars; and attorneys Michael Bien, Ernest Galvan, Kara Janssen and Ginger Jackson-Gleich of the San Francisco firm, Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld.
"We hope this shines a light on the systemic nature of the abuse," Montes said at a news conference outside the Oakland federal courthouse. "And we are seeking immediate relief."
The BOP did not immediately respond for comment on Wednesday.
There have been more than a dozen individual lawsuits filed against FCI Dublin in the last year, but this is the first major "putative" class action in 30 years.
Bien's firm sued in the last major class action lawsuit against the BOP alleging almost identical allegations of sexual abuse at FCI Dublin in the 1990s. The case settled in 1998 with the prison promising reforms and three women being awarded a total of $500,000.
One of those women, Robin Lucas, was at Wednesday's news conference.
Lucas said she had "experience atrocities" back then and vowed to "change history today."
If the judge does certify the class action, as is expected, the suit will cover all 600-plus women held at the low-level, minimum-security prison adjacent to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
The suit also discussed the real retaliation women suffer when they report abuse and the national attention FCI Dublin has received in the last two years from the national media, including KTVU reporting, all the way to Congress.
The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations devoted multiple hearings to addressing FCI Dublin and issued a report in December 2022 describing the abuse as "horrific" and the BOP’s investigative practices as "seriously flawed."
The committee concluded that "BOP management failures enabled continued sexual abuse of female prisoners by BOP’s own employees."
The lawyers for the women made several demands in their class action.
Among them: Access to mental health counselors, a safe and confidential place to report abuse, adequately trained employees in sex abuse and abuse of power issues.
The lawyers also want the BOP to help survivors with compassionate releases petitions and U-visas for non-citzens, install fixed cameras, address dire living conditions, and properly investigate claims of abuse, among others.
A formerly incarcerated woman named Maria spoke at the news conference saying that she had been abused, her friends had been abused and then deported afterward.
"I am raising my voice," she said in Spanish, "because the women in there don't have the same voice."
Later this week, the women's attorneys will be requesting that at least some of their demands begin immediately.
"We're seeking an end to sexual violence," Montes said.
Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at email@example.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez