‘Substantial likelihood’ that feds committed wrongdoing in ignoring asbestos, mold at women’s prison in California
The finding, now forwarded to Attorney General Merrick Garland, involves the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, already under Justice Department scrutiny for rampant sexual abuse of inmates.
A government watchdog has found a “substantial likelihood” the federal Bureau of Prisons committed wrongdoing when it ignored complaints and failed to address asbestos and mold contamination at a women’s prison in California that already has been under scrutiny for rampant sexual abuse of inmates.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel now wants Attorney General Merrick Garland to step in to investigate the accusations.
That’s after multiple whistleblower complaints were filed earlier this year by union officials at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California. According to the complaints, senior Bureau of Prisons officials failed to act to resolve the accusations of workplace contamination.
The union had repeatedly complained that correctional officers and other prison workers and inmates were being exposed to potentially hazardous mold and asbestos but says those concerns were ignored.
“Management’s failure to address unsafe and dangerous working conditions at FCI Dublin has put the health and safety of both employees and inmates at considerable risk,” Dublin union president Edward Canales said. “We look forward to the outcome of this investigation, which we hope will result in the unsafe conditions being remedied and appropriate disciplinary actions being taken against the managers who failed to act.”
The Office of Special Counsel said that, although it found “a substantial likelihood of wrongdoing” based on the complaint it received, the referral to Garland doesn’t constitute its final determination. It said the case remains open until the agency submits its final report, which will be forwarded to President Joe Biden and Congress.
Emery Nelson, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, said, “All safety concerns reported by staff at Dublin are being addressed.”
The Justice Department has been investigating accusations of misconduct at Dublin, where five employees — including the former warden — have been charged with sexually abusing inmates. An Associated Press investigation earlier this year uncovered a pattern of sexual misconduct and a culture that enabled it to continue for years.
After that investigation was published, whistleblowers at the prison said they were being attacked for having spoken up. The Bureau of Prisons launched a task force of 18 senior executives who visited the prison in March to assess the conditions there and work to reform the facility. The agency’s director, Michael Carvajal, also visited the prison.
The Justice Department said it has received the letter, “appreciates OSC’s responsiveness to these concerns” and that the Bureau of Prisons is “addressing concerns raised by staff at Dublin and working to ensure that all facilities are operating under safe, healthy conditions.”