WASHINGTON, (AP) — Since the beginning of 2019, more than 100 federal prison workers were indicted for crimes, including a warden for sexual abuse, an associate with murder, guards taking money to smuggle drug and weapons, and supervisors stealing property like tires.
A Associated Press investigation revealed that the federal Bureau of Prisons has a budget of almost $8 billion annually and is a hotbed of corruption, graft, and abuse. It has also turned a blindeye to employees who are accused of misconduct. In some cases, officers who had been convicted of crimes have not been removed from their posts by the agency.
The Justice Department has seen two-thirds of recent criminal cases against Justice Department employees involve federal prison workers. They make up less that one-third the department’s workforce. This year’s 41 arrests included 28 BOP workers or contractors. Five were made by the FBI. The Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives each had one.
These figures show that criminal behavior by federal prison employees is thriving in a system designed to punish and rehabilitate those who have committed serious crimes. Advocates urge the Biden administration not to ignore the problems at the bureau.
AP found one instance where an official from a Mississippi federal prison who was supposed to investigate misconduct among other staff members was allowed to keep his job after he was charged with stalking and harassing colleagues. This official was also allowed continue to investigate a staffer who had accused him.
According to the Justice Department, it said that it will not tolerate any misconduct of staff members, including criminal misconduct. According to the department, it “will not tolerate any employee abusing a position of trust,” as demonstrated by federal criminal prosecutions.
Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that Lisa Monaco, his deputy, meets regularly with Bureau of Prisons officials in order to resolve issues plaguing the agency.
Nearly all federal prison workers have been charged with criminal acts. One of those employees was a teacher who pleaded guilty to falsifying an inmate’s high-school equivalency. Another was a chaplain who admitted to taking $12,000 in bribes in order to smuggle Suboxone. The drug is used to treat opioid addiction.
Indicted for molestation of an inmate in a federal women’s jail in Dublin, California.
Warden Ray Garcia, who was placed under administrative leave by the FBI after his office was raided in July, allegedly stated to the woman that there was no point reporting the sexual assault as he was “close friends” with the person who would investigate it and that the inmate wouldn’t have the ability to “ruin” him. Garcia has pleaded no guilty.
Garcia was taken into custody three months after FCI Dublin’s recycling technician was charged with coercing two inmates to sexual activity. Investigations are underway into several other workers at the facility where Felicity Loughlin and Felicity Huffman spent time as part of the college admissions scandal bribery.
Monaco claimed that Garcia was arrested and that she was taking a “very serious look at these topics across the board” after her arrest. She said she also had confidence in Michael Carvajal, the bureau director, months after senior officials considered whether to fire him.
In August, the Metropolitan Detention Center associate warden in New York City was accused of killing her husband. She had been accused of shooting him in the head in their New Jersey house. She has pleaded guilty.
The AP tracked one-fifth (or one-fifth) of all BOP cases. This is second only to cases involving smuggled drugs. Any sexual activity between a prison worker, and inmate, is illegal. Inmates claim that they were forced to do so by fear, intimidation, and threats of violence in the most extreme cases.
In July, a Lexington prison medical center correctional officer and a drug treatment specialist were accused of threatening to murder inmates or their families if the abuse continued. In Victorville, California, a prisoner said that she felt “frozen and powerless with fear” after a guard threatened to send them to the “hole” for not performing sex acts on him. He pleaded guilty in 2019.
Fraud, theft and lying on paperwork following death of inmates have all been problems.
Indicted by prosecutors in what they called a wide-ranging bribery, contraband smuggling and conspiracy scheme earlier this month were three former employees and eight inmates of the New York City Federal Jail where Jeffrey Epstein died. The Justice Department shut down the jail in October due to poor conditions inmates. The building was broken into by a gun last year.
Unified secretary to the gang was also charged with misleading Anthony Ellison (gang member) in order to get him a less severe sentence.
The Bureau of Prisons houses over 150,000 federal prisoners and has 37,500 employees. It has been in crisis for the past few years. From the rapid spread of coronavirus in prisons and an ineffective response to the pandemic, to numerous escapes, deaths, and critically low staffing levels, which have hindered emergency responses.
Interviews with the AP revealed that more than a dozen staff from the bureau raised concerns about the agency’s disciplinary process. They claim that the focus is too much on alleged misconduct of rank-and-file employees, and they feel that allegations of misconduct against wardens and senior executives are easier to ignore.
Susan Canales, vice-president of FCI Dublin, stated that the Bureau of Prisons’ main concern is that the wardens of each institution decide whether there will be a disciplinary investigation. “Basically, you’re giving the fox the charge of the chickenhouse.”
The federal prison in Yazoo City has seen multiple complaints against the officer charged with investigating staff misconduct. He was also arrested. The bureau did not remove him from the job or suspend him, an unusual deviation from Justice Department practice.
According to a police investigation obtained by the AP, a prison employee reported that the official assaulted him in a housing unit. According to internal documents, the official allegedly grabbed the officer’s arm while he was in a cell with an inmate and obstructed his path.
Another instance saw the same official arrested after another employee called the local sheriff’s department accusing him stalking and harassing her. The Associated Press isn’t naming the official because some of his criminal charges were dropped.
Both victims stated that they reported the incidents both to Shannon Withers, the prison complex warden and to the Justice Department inspector general. The victims claim the Bureau of Prisons didn’t take any action. This allowed the official to stay in his position despite being charged with serious misconduct and pending criminal cases.
Kristie Breshears spoke for the bureau, but declined to discuss the matter or answer why the official wasn’t suspended.
Breshears stated the agency is “committed” to the safety of all inmates, staff, and the general public. He also said that misconduct allegations are thoroughly investigated for criminal or administrative prosecution.
The bureau stated that it conducts background checks on all applicants and screens them carefully to ensure that they are in line with its core values. According to the agency, employees must “have a positive attitude that promotes respect for the BOP and Department of Justice as well as the U.S. Government.”
Sisak reported out of New York.