A scandal-plagued week at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin just got more scandal-plagued, as a Congressional investigation is looking into why a regional prisons official and former acting warden was able to rise the ranks despite a history of inmate-beating charges for which other guards got fired.
The minimum-security women’s prison Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Dublin, in Alameda County, has long been considered a “country club” kind of prison. It’s been the place of incarceration for the rich and famous who got caught; Patty Hearst, Squeaky Fromme, and “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss, and more recently, Full House star Lori Loughlin and Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman in the 2019 “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal.
Yet we in the media were probably naive to call it a “country club” prison, as we’ve lately learned of some horrible sexual abuse of women incarcerated there. In fact, we have should called it a “rape club” prison, as it turns out that’s an actual term the guards used to describe their exploits. Former warden Ray Garcia was indicted in August for a myriad of sex crimes (he had a trove of nude photos he’d forced inmates to pose for on his government issued phone), and he was convicted on sexual abuse charges last week.
I am very concerned about the allegations in this article and whether BOP will address abuses, prioritize safety, and improve their flawed approach to misconduct investigations. https://t.co/wLbuLDStPi— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) December 10, 2022
One would hope that after that scandal, things would be cleaned up around there, but far from it. As seen in the above tweet for Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), also last week the Associated Press reported that new Bureau of Prisons Deputy Regional Director Thomas Ray Hinkle has a history of beating inmates senseless, and the victims were generally Black inmates. “An Associated Press investigation has found that the Bureau of Prisons has repeatedly promoted Hinkle despite numerous red flags, rewarding him again and again over a three-decade career while others who assaulted inmates lost their jobs and went to prison,” the AP reported,
U.S. prison employees have abused female inmates in at least 19 of the 29 federal facilities that have held women over the past decade, a Senate investigation has found. https://t.co/tgu0thwTT5— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 13, 2022
And this all appears to go way beyond just FCI Dublin . The New York Times has their own reporting today that sexual abuse of incarcerated women is rampant all over the country. “Federal Bureau of Prisons employees have abused female inmates in at least 19 of the 29 federal facilities that have held women over the past decade,” the Times reports. As seen below, there is going to be a Senate hearing on this today.
Today in DC: Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters is testifying before Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is releasing report on prison sex assaults. It’s 1st time Peters is facing q’s since @AP revealed BOP repeatedly promoted official who beat inmates. pic.twitter.com/rAcWV1X7E3— Mike Sisak (@mikesisak) December 13, 2022
In terms of Hinkle, who was just promoted to the deputy regional director role, the AP reports that he says this was all in the distant past, and while he “acknowledged he beat inmates... he regrets that behavior and now speaks openly about it ‘to teach others how to avoid making the same mistakes.’"
And his higher-ups are sticking to their guns for him. "Mr. Hinkle has openly acknowledged his past mistakes, gone through the employee discipline program, sought professional help and reframed his experiences as learning opportunities for others," Federal Bureau of Prisons director Colette Peters told the AP. "Today, I am confident he has grown into an effective supervisor for our agency."
We can expect some contradiction of this characterization from Bay Area Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who told KPIX of a "hostile" encounter she had with Hinkle at FCI Dublin in February, while he was briefly serving as acting warden there. Speier tweeted Friday about the AP article, "The details revealed here are deeply disturbing. If only half of what is reported is true, Hinkle should be terminated immediately."
The congressional pushback against prison guard and warden misconduct will likely become a bipartisan issue. On the left, Durbin and our own California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla seem likely to tee up on this in hearings. On the right, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will have opportunities to go off on Merrick Garland and Biden’s “out of control” Justice Department. But in this case, it may be turn out quite accurate that the Bureau of Prisons is, in some regards, very much out of control.
Image: Jesstess87 via Wikimedia Commons