Criminals on Both Sides of the Bars

Prisons are supposed to be secure places where offenders are held accountable and prepared to lead law-abiding lives when released. In fact, that’s right in the Bureau of Prisons’ Mission Statement, “to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.” However, that’s hard to do when some of those running prisons are criminals themselves. 

The Inspector General of the Department of Justice found that employees of the Bureau of Prisons have committed rape and murder, taken cash to smuggle drugs and weapons into prisons, and stole government property such as tires and tractors. In addition, the IG found that BOP employees had filed false reports, incited violence, lied, were stalkers, and took bribes. Since 2019 more than 100 federal prison workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for these crimes.

Those crimes were committed by the people that are supposed to be “correcting” the behavior of inmates. Good luck with that!

Last November, the Warden of the women’s prison at FCI Dublin in California was indicted for groping a female inmate, asking two inmates to strip naked for him, and taking and storing photographs of a naked inmate in her cell.

He is also accused of trying to deter one of his victims from reporting the abuse by telling her that he “was ‘close friends’ with the person that investigates allegations of misconduct by inmates, bragged that he “could not be fired.”

This year another BOP employee at FCI Dublin was arrested on charges he coerced two inmates into sexual activity. It appears that some randy foxes are guarding the henhouse.

I have a unique perspective on the crimes committed at the Dublin prison. I was inmate 06833-097 at the Dublin prison complex from March 1994 to February 1995. At that time, it was an all-male labor camp. While imprisoned there similar corruption happened regularly.

One day, I was exchanging my tools at the Tool Shed. Clay and Joe, the inmates assigned there, told me that the foreman of the landscape crew had come into the shed and ordered them to go and pick up cigarette butts in the maintenance yard behind the shed. This was odd because there were plenty of inmates assigned to sweep up the butts, and the shed would be left unsupervised while they were out in the yead.

However, Clay and Joe knew better than to question the foreman. After several minutes passed, they saw him put something in the back of his pickup and drive off. They returned to the tool room and noticed two empty outlines where brand-new Skilsaws had been hung just that morning. When Joe and Clay reported the missing saws to their supervisor, he listed it as an “inmate theft.”

Because I had been in government other inmates would tip me off about staff thefts. For instance, in the week before the prison would take inventory prior to the start of a new fiscal year, several inmates told me to keep my eyes and ears open. They predicted that word would spread through camp that the Supply Room door had been left open and the officer was nowhere to be seen. Sure enough, soon inmates were scurrying back and forth between the Supply Room and their lockers with their arms full of socks and underwear.

Later that afternoon a surprise shakedown of all the inmate lockers was called and all the extra items were confiscated. The officers returned the inventory to the Supply Room. The scam was that a couple of days later when taking inventory, it was “discovered” that there were shortages for many items carried on the books. The shortages were attributed to “inmate theft” thereby covering up all the clothes that the staff pilfered for their families the preceding year.

As for staff dalliances with the female inmates, I learned that prior to my arriving at the camp several officers had been frog marched out the prison gate for having sex with female prisoners in return for smuggling in drugs and cigarettes.

The women’s prison was adjacent to the Garage where I was assigned for much my time at Dublin. We were able to visit through the fence with the women inmates. While this is secondhand info, it was confirmed by the women inside the fence as well as male inmates who were in the camp when this occurred. The BOP brushed the scandal under the carpet. Rather than charging the officers for their crimes the offending officers were merely reassigned to other prisons.

The crimes I have described were committed by “bad apples” among prison officials. I admire many of the who have dedicated their lives to keeping prisons safe while helping prisoners become better people. The work of these heroes is undercut when the prison system doesn’t cull these bad actors from their ranks.

The Roman poet Juvenal wrote, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Who will guard the guardians? If prisons are to send inmates home better than when they went in the ethics of the corrections profession must be restored. The acting Director of the Bureau of Prisons just announced he is stepping down. However, real change requires more than a change at the top. It means a fundamental change in the BOP the culture that has tolerated such criminals among their ranks. The Bureau of Prisons needs a top-to-bottom housecleaning. And  it needs it stat.

Pat Nolan is the Founder of the Nolan Center for Justice at the American Conservative Union conservativejusticereform.org

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