Prisons are not pleasure palaces, nor are they intended to be. They’re designed to metamorphose convicts into respectable citizens who don’t want to return once they’re freed. In theory, thin mattresses, one-star dining, limited activities, and an extended removal from society should be enough to make all ex-cons skip down the straight and narrow. Should be… But in 68% of all cases, it isn’t. They come back for a second, third, and even a fourth heaping helping of the same.
Prison sentences serve as long-term cool-off periods where perpetrators have an abundance of spare time to contemplate the error of their ways. But in far too many cases, that time spent behind bars only intensifies their anger. It implants an uncontrollable rage that can only be released once they shed the chains and shackles.
In actuality, they’re too busy looking over their shoulders to have time to contemplate their crimes. Prison fights erupt from time to time and an occasional inmate gets shanked here or there, but for the most part, it’s the abusive guards they unsuccessfully try to avoid.
Adding to their frustrations, inmates are forced to tolerate insufficient heat and air, broken plumbing, and rat infestations in the crumbling facilities where they are often degraded beyond human recognition. The system failed them.
At the federal prison in Dublin, California, things got so bad that both the inmates and prison employees were writing letters, sending emails, and calling for help. Sexual abuse was out of control and the building was falling down around them, but their desperate pleas received no attention from the powers in D.C.
The all-female Dublin facility is often referred to as the “rape club.” When it was reported last January how the abuse had gone on for years with no action taken, the director of the federal Bureau of Prisons immediately resigned. But with no one to replace him, he was asked to remain in his position until it could be filled.
It took an angry congresswoman to let the worms out of the can. In March, with no option, the lame-duck director flew to California with a team of senior officials to interview the staff and inmates at Dublin. As director Michael Carvajal toured the dilapidated facility, he was heard to say, “You wanted my attention, so here I am.”
Carvajal didn’t get nearly as slam-dunked by the inmates as he did the facility’s new warden, Thahesha Jusino, who let him have both barrels. “It’s horrible. It’s absolutely horrible. I’ve never experienced anything like this. In my career, I’ve never been part of a situation like this. This is really unprecedented,” she said.
The prison’s former warden, Ray J. Garcia, along with five other former prison employees, was found guilty in June of sexually abusing female inmates.
Jusino said, “we’ve lost a lot of credibility through all of this, which is understandable because it’s appalling what has happened.”
Without Jusino’s knowledge, prison guards not wanting to be ratted out moved some of their inmate victims to a different building where they said the inspectors weren’t allowed. They told them it was a COVID-19 isolation unit.
Still, some of the victims managed to get to Carvajal, and they spilled it all. One inmate gave a detailed description of her abuse by prison officials. She was handed tissues as her 15-minute dissertation brought a flood of tears.
When the inmate finally broke down completely, she was taken to a prison psychologist for evaluation. It was recommended that she be immediately released to a halfway house but she refused the offer. More congressional leaders were due to visit the prison and she wanted her story to be told publicly, so she’d wait.
Since the woman was now a potential witness, she wasn’t allowed to discuss what had transpired during the interview. To avoid this, she got moved to a halfway house anyway, against her wishes. It was feared that some of the crooked guards might threaten her.
One prison employee who is equally as appalled as the investigators asked Carvajal, “Why did you create this toxic environment? Why did you pick Garcia as the warden?” Another one was blunter when they said, “You created this monster.”
This is but one federal prison among many where reports of widespread abuse are daily occurrences. Dublin was singled out as one of the worst because it houses a female population, but this should in no way diminish the horrendous abuse and substandard living conditions being experienced at all of them.
Steps are being taken to right the wrongs, but it’s not a quick fix. It took decades to develop such an extreme culture of violence and abuse and not all of the guilty parties have been rounded up, nor will they ever be.
Now, do you understand the 68% return rate a little better? Inmates aren’t rehabilitated upon their release. They’re pissed off at the world and they picked up some new skills while in the can.