Federal investigators interview guards at East Bay Women’s Prison

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By MICHAEL R. SISAK and MICHAEL BALSAMO | The Associated Press

Federal investigators interviewed the director of a federal women’s prison in California and ransacked his office Thursday, weeks after a former correctional officer at the facility was arrested for sexually abusing inmates.

It was not immediately clear whether Thursday’s activity at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin was related to last month’s arrest. The search documents on Thursday remained sealed. The FBI said it was unable to provide details on the case.

In a statement, an FBI spokesman confirmed that agents at the low-security Bay Area prison were “conducting judicially authorized law enforcement activities.”

Thursday’s law enforcement activity at FCI Dublin is the latest cloud over the federal prison system, which has been plagued by rampant staff shortages, suicides and security breaches after trying last year to contain the spread of COVID-19.

People familiar with the matter said federal investigators questioned warden RJ Garcia and FBI agents were seen ransacking his office and vehicle early Thursday. No arrests were made.

People were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Messages asking for comments were left at the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the FCI Dublin main office. The person who answered the phone in the prison said the guard could not be reached immediately.

FCI Dublin, 20 miles southeast of Oakland, opened in 1974 and converted into an all-women facility in 2012. As one of five women’s prisons in the federal system, it currently houses around 750 inmates.

Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin spent time there for their involvement in the college admission bribery scandal. Other famous inmates over the years were the publishing heiress Patty Hearst and Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss.

Former FCI Dublin correctional officer and recycling technician Ross Klinger was arrested last month on charges of abusing his authority and forcing two inmates to engage in sexual activity. According to prosecutors, Klinger, 36, told inmates that he wanted to marry her and father their children. He also gave them money and gifts, the prosecutor said.

Klinger has been released into domestic custody and is expected to lead to a status hearing in September. Klinger’s lawyer did not want to comment on Thursday.

The AP reported last month that senior Biden administration officials were debating whether to remove the director of the Bureau of Prisons, Michael Carvajal, a holdover from the Trump administration, which has been at the center of the agency’s myriad crises. He stays in the job.

Nearly a third of the correctional officer jobs in the state prison system are vacant, forcing prisons to use cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to guard inmates.

And in the past 18 months, 29 federal prisoners have escaped in the US, with nearly half not caught. In some asylums, doors remain unlocked, security cameras are broken, and officers sometimes go unnoticed for hours that an inmate is missing.

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