Whistleblowers say they’re bullied for exposing prison abuse – Times-Herald

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Bureau of Prisons is facing greater scrutiny over its latest scandal – prosecutors and even a prisoner who has been sexually abused in a women’s prison called a “rape club” – say people trying to hold them accountable. being attacked for talking.

Whistleblower officials say high-ranking prison officials are harassing them for exposing wrongdoing and threatening to lock women up if they continue to report abuse, and members of Congress say they are being stoned to try to oversee the office.

The Prison Office has maintained a tendency toward silence and secrecy, according to staff and lawmakers. to continue for years.

Following the report, including accounts of inmates sent to solitary confinement or other prisons for solitary confinement, Bay Area and other federal prison staff and unions said they were also threatening to sound the alarm about misconduct.

In Dublin, union chairman Ed Canales said the acting director, T. Ray Hinkle, deputy regional director of the Prisons Office, shared Canales’ secret emails and home address with staff after Canales complained of abuse, corruption and security issues to office leaders.

In a federal prison in Mendota, California, union president Aaron McGlothin says agency officials retaliated by reviving a frivolous disciplinary investigation after allegations that COVID-19 positive inmate bus charges were taken to his organization. The investigation, he said, stemmed from a misdemeanor complaint that left him out of work when he was allowed to spend time on union matters.

At the Victorville, California, federal prison complex, staff said an official warned of the risk of being away from reporters or interfering with disciplinary investigations. Such threats are effective because even the lowest disciplinary issues can hinder the promotion of workers, union officials said.

John Kostelnik, vice-president of the Western Regional Workers’ Union, said that what is happening with whistles in Dublin, Mendota and Victorville is endemic to a culture of cover-up that is deeply ingrained in the Prison Office leadership – aimed at preserving what remains of the office’s reputation. rather than eliminating the transgressions of any employee.

“We are responsible for keeping the prisoners behind the walls, but this agency has created the concept of keeping everything behind the walls. And that’s not right, “Kostelnik said in an interview.

Four men working in Dublin have been charged with sexual abuse, including former director Ray J. Garcia, who has pleaded not guilty. Several others are being investigated.

Federal law protects informant employees from retaliation, but Kostelnik said such protections do not really exist in the Cloister Prison Office, where those in charge of controlling employee discipline and speaking people are essentially blacklisted. Employers typically require them to identify problems that could be written by informants, and effectively force them to put their names and endanger their anonymity, Kostelnik said.

Without an anonymous third-party reporting system like other law enforcement agencies, federal prison reporters “face a full-blown attack when you report something wrong with the facility, especially if you’re reporting to management officials,” Kostelnik said.

The AP contacted the Justice Department and the Prison Office to ask specific questions about the allegations. The Prisons Office responded with a one-sentence statement stating that it “takes allegations of employee misconduct seriously, including allegations of employee retaliation, and in accordance with our national policy, such allegations should be reported and, where necessary, investigated.” Hinkle does not respond to a text message to search for comments.

The Prison Office has been hit by crises in recent years, many of which have revealed AP reports, including criminal activity of staff, very low staffing levels that hinder emergency response, rapid deployment of COVID-19, a failed pandemic response. and dozens of escapes.

Following the AP report on Dublin last week, the Senate set up a two-party working group to look into the terms of the Prisons Office, and on Wednesday Senate Justice Committee leaders wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland to call for immediate action to reform the office.

The Office’s treatment of complainants and its resistance to transparency, as documented by staff and lawmakers, have merely called for further scrutiny.

California spokesman Jackie Speier, who visited Dublin after reading the AP’s investigation last week, says a larger congressional contingent is taking over to inspect the prison after Hinkle prevented him from speaking to inmates and staff individually.

“When I read the article, I was shocked and disgusted,” Speier said in an interview. “I wanted to go on a visit to determine my own situation. I would classify the visit as very inappropriate and inappropriate. “

Speier said he would not stop until the Prisons Office had significant oversight and would “go to the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the White House if necessary to ensure we have the access we want.”

During his visit, Speier said, Hinkle tried to prevent him from talking to several inmates who had reported abuse, and instead sent him to talk to others he had selected. He said he described the sexual abuse of staff as “shameful”.

Speier told him, “This is not a shame. This is a toxic work environment. It’s a bad situation.”

Then, in an email from the AP to Dublin staff, Hinkle said Speier had “abused” prison staff and treated an employee “as if he had committed a crime.”

“I guess the Congressman was talking about a final AP article that painted our organization in broad color,” Hinkle wrote in the email. “While I recognize his right to believe what he believes, I do not recognize his right to blindly classify all hard-working FCI Dublin staff every day they are presented with the duty to choose to be law-abiding public servants.”

Hinkle said Speier surprised him and other officials by asking him to speak privately with inmates – a statement the congressman is discussing – and said they blocked him from doing so because having those conversations “could jeopardize an investigation or an active case.”

In another email from all staff recently, the acting director announced the possibility of replacing or renovating the Dublin prison, citing infrastructure and security concerns.

At the last closed door, however, union leaders said officials threatened to close Dublin if workers did not stop talking about misconduct.

“It was very clear to us that this will close this accusation, that it will close our actions,” Kostelnik said.

He said prison officials had raised maintenance costs in Dublin, one of the highest in any federal prison, as an excuse for a possible closure. The facility, 21 miles (34 miles) east of Oakland, opened in 1974. It has about 760 prisoners and more than 200 employees.

“Now all of a sudden they want to bring that in, it’s costing us all that money,” Kostelnik said. “But it was all about saying, ‘Well, if you keep doing this,’ basically, ‘We have a reason to close because it’s expensive, but because you’re revealing this, we’re going to close.'”


On Twitter, follow Michael Balsamo on twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 and Michael Sisa on twitter.com/mikesisak and send secret tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/.

Whistleblowers say they’re bullied for exposing prison abuse – Times-Herald Source link Whistleblowers say they’re bullied for exposing prison abuse – Times-Herald

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