By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Federal prisons are filled with those accused and convicted of crimes like drug smuggling, sexual abuse, and murder.
But a comprehensive new report revealed that those crimes also are associated with those who work in the prisons, including wardens.
The report published by the Associated Press revealed that over 100 federal prison workers had been arrested, convicted, or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019, including a warden indicted for sexual abuse, an associate warden charged with murder, guards taking cash to smuggle drugs and weapons, and supervisors stealing property such as tires and tractors.
According to the report, the federal Bureau of Prisons has turned a blind eye to misconduct. The agency failed to suspend officers in some cases who have been arrested for crimes.
Two-thirds of the criminal cases against Justice Department personnel in recent years have involved federal prison workers, who account for less than one-third of the department’s workforce.
The report notes that of the 41 arrests in 2021, 28 were of Bureau of Prisons employees or contractors. The FBI had five. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives each had two.
Officials at the Department of Justice did not return messages left by NNPA Newswire.
In a statement to the Associated Press, the Justice Department said it “will not tolerate staff misconduct, particularly criminal misconduct.”
The news outlet reported that department officials said they are “committed to holding accountable any employee who abuses a position of trust, which we have demonstrated through federal criminal prosecutions and other means.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland has said his deputy, Lisa Monaco, regularly meets Bureau of Prisons officials to address issues plaguing the agency.
“Federal prison workers in nearly every job function have been charged with crimes,” the report stated.
“Those employees include a teacher who pleaded guilty in January to fudging an inmate’s high school equivalency and a chaplain who admitted taking at least $12,000 in bribes to smuggle Suboxone, which is used to treat opioid addiction, as well as marijuana, tobacco, and cellphones, and leaving the items in a prison chapel cabinet for inmates to retrieve.”
The report continued:
“At the highest ranks, the warden of a federal women’s prison in Dublin, California, was arrested in September and indicted this month on charges he molested an inmate multiple times, scheduled times where he demanded she undress in front of him and amassed a slew of nude photos of her on his government-issued phone.
“Warden Ray Garcia, who was placed on administrative leave after the FBI raided his office in July, allegedly told the woman there was no point in reporting the sexual assault because he was ‘close friends’ with the person who would investigate the allegation and that the inmate wouldn’t be able to ‘ruin him.’
“Garcia has pleaded not guilty.”
Garcia’s arrest came three months after a recycling technician at FCI Dublin was arrested on charges he coerced two inmates into sexual activity, the report noted.
Several other workers at the facility, where actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin spent time for their involvement in the college admissions bribery scandal, are under investigation, according to the Associated Press.
Monaco said after Garcia’s arrest that she was “taking a very serious look at these issues across the board” and insisted she had confidence in the bureau’s director, Michael Carvajal, months after senior administration officials weighed whether to oust him.
In August, the associate warden at the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York City was charged with killing her husband — a fellow federal prison worker — after police said she shot him in the face in their New Jersey home.
She has pleaded not guilty.
One-fifth of the BOP cases tracked by the news service involved crimes of a sexual nature, second only to cases involving smuggled contraband. All sexual activity between a prison worker and an inmate is illegal. In the most egregious cases, inmates say they were coerced through fear, intimidation, and threats of violence.
A correctional officer and drug treatment specialist at a Lexington, Kentucky, prison medical center was charged in July with threatening to kill inmates or their families if they didn’t go along with sexual abuse.
A Victorville, California inmate said she “felt frozen and powerless with fear” when a guard threatened to send her to the “hole” unless she performed a sex act on him.
He pleaded guilty in 2019.
“Theft, fraud, and lying on paperwork after inmate deaths have also been issues,” the report stated.