Inside federal prisons, employees commit crimes

Inside federal prisons, employees commit crimes

Washington More than 100 federal prison staff have been arrested, convicted, or sentenced for crimes since the beginning of 2019, including a warden accused of sexual abuse, an assistant monitor accused of murder, guards taking cash for drug and weapons smuggling, and supervisors stealing property like tires. and tractors.

An Associated Press investigation found that the Federal Bureau of Prisons, with an annual budget of nearly $8 billion, is a hotbed of abuse, graft and corruption, and has turned a blind eye to employees accused of misconduct. In some cases, the agency has failed to stop officers who have been arrested for crimes.

Federal prison workers have involved two-thirds of criminal cases against Justice Department employees in recent years. Of the 41 arrests this year, 28 were Palestinian bank employees or contractors. The FBI had only five. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives each had two.


The figures highlight how criminal behavior of employees has worsened within the federal prison system aimed at punishing and rehabilitating people who have committed misdeeds. The revelations come as advocates push the Biden administration to get serious about office reform.

In one case discovered by the AP, the agency allowed a federal prison official in Mississippi whose job it was to investigate the misconduct of other employees, to remain in office after he was arrested on charges of stalking and harassment of fellow employees. This official was also allowed to continue the investigation of an employee he accused of committing a crime.

In a statement to the Associated Press, the Department of Justice said it “will not tolerate employee misconduct, particularly criminal misconduct.” The department said it was “committed to holding accountable any employee who abuses the position of trust, which we have demonstrated through federal crime prosecutions and other means.”


Attorney General Merrick Garland said his deputy, Lisa Monaco, meets regularly with Bureau of Prisons officials to address issues plaguing the agency.

Federal prison workers in nearly every job have been charged with crimes. Those employees include a teacher who pleaded guilty in January to formula fraud to a high school inmate and a chaplain who admitted receiving at least $12,000 in bribes to smuggle Suboxone, which is used to treat addiction to opioids, as well as marijuana, tobacco and cell phones, and leaving items in a church locker Imprisonment until the inmates retrieve it.

At the top of the ranks, the warden of a women’s federal prison in Dublin, California, was arrested in September and indicted this month on charges of molesting a female prisoner multiple times, at specific times asking her to undress in front of him and collecting a large number of nude photos of her on his phone which issued by the government.


Warden Ray Garcia, who was placed on administrative leave after the FBI raided his office in July, allegedly told the woman that there was no point in reporting the sexual assault because he was “close friends” with the person who would investigate the prosecution and that the inmate would not be able to “Destroy it”. Garcia pleaded not guilty.

Garcia’s arrest came three months after a recycling technician at FCI Dublin was arrested on charges of forcing two inmates to engage in sexual activity. Several other workers at the facility, where actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin spent time being involved in a bribery scandal, are undergoing college admissions.

Monaco said after Garcia’s arrest that it was “taking a very serious look at these issues across the board” and insisted it had confidence in its chief of staff, Michael Carvajal, after months of top administration officials weighing whether they wanted him fired.


In August, an assistant warden at New York City’s Metropolitan Detention Center was charged with the murder of her husband – a fellow federal prison worker – after police said she shot him in the face at their New Jersey home. She is not guilty.

One-fifth of the blast arrester cases tracked by the AP involved crimes of a sexual nature, second only to cases involving smuggling. All sexual activities between the prison worker and the inmate are illegal. In the most egregious cases, inmates say they were coerced through fear, intimidation and threats of violence.

A correctional officer and a substance abuse therapist at a prison medical center in Lexington, Kentucky, were charged in July with threatening to kill inmates or their families if they did not deal with the sexual assault. A resident in Victorville, California, said she “felt freezing and weak in fear” when a guard threatened to send her to “the pit” unless she had a sexual act on him. He pleaded guilty in 2019.


Theft, fraud, and lying on paperwork after prisoners died were also issues.

Earlier this month, three employees and eight former inmates were indicted at the notorious federal prison in New York City where financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in what prosecutors described as a large-scale bribery and smuggling scheme. The Ministry of Justice closed the prison in October, citing the deplorable conditions of the prisoners. Last year, a rifle entered the building.

One of the accused staff members, a unit secretary, was also accused of defaming gang member Anthony “Harf” Ellison as a “model inmate” to inflict a reduced sentence on him.

The Bureau of Prisons, which holds more than 150,000 federal inmates, has gone from crisis to crisis in the past few years, from the rampant spread of the coronavirus inside prisons and the failed response to the pandemic to dozens of escapes, deaths and dangerously low staffing. Levels that impeded emergency response.


In interviews with the Associated Press, more than a dozen office staff have raised concerns that the agency’s disciplinary system has led to a heavy focus on alleged misconduct by regular employees, and say allegations of misconduct against top executives and guards. They are more easily brushed aside.

“The primary concern of the Bureau of Prisons is that guards in each institution decide whether or not any disciplinary investigation will take place,” said Susan Canalis, vice president of the Federation at FCI Dublin. “Basically, you put the fox in charge of the chicken house.”

At the federal prison in Yazoo, Mississippi, an official tasked with investigating staff misconduct has been the subject of numerous complaints and multiple arrests. The bureau did not remove him from the position or suspend him – a deviation from normal Department of Justice practice.

In one case, a prison worker reported that an official assaulted him inside a housing unit, according to a police report obtained by the Associated Press. Internal documents detail allegations that the official grabbed the officer’s arm and trapped him inside an inmate’s cell, blocking his path.


The same official was arrested in another case when another employee called the local mayor’s office, accusing him of stalking and harassing her. The AP did not identify the official by name because some criminal charges were later dropped.

In both cases, the victims said they reported the incident to the prison complex’s warden, Shannon Withers, and the Department of Justice’s inspector general. But they say the Bureau of Prisons failed to take any action, allowing the official to remain in office despite pending criminal charges and allegations of serious misconduct.

Kristi Preachers, a spokeswoman for the office, declined to discuss the case or specify why the official was never suspended.

Prechers said the agency is “committed to ensuring the safety and security of all inmates in our community, our staff, and the public” and that allegations of misconduct “are being thoroughly investigated for possible administrative discipline or criminal prosecution.”


The office said it requires background checks and a careful screening and evaluation of potential employees to ensure they meet its core values. The agency said it is asking its employees to “behave in a manner that promotes respect for a Palestinian bank, the Department of Justice, and the US government.”


Sisak reported from New York.


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