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Workers at federal prisons are committing some of the crimes

A Federal Correctional Institution exterior
The Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif., in 2006. Nearly 100 federal Bureau of Prisons employees have been arrested, convicted or sentenced in criminal cases since the start of 2019. Those arrested include Ray Garcia, the warden at the Federal Correctional Institution at Dublin.
(Ben Margot / AP)

More than 100 federal prison workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019, including a warden indicted in connection with 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.

An Associated Press investigation has found that the federal Bureau of Prisons, with an annual budget of nearly $8 billion, is a hotbed of abuse, graft and corruption, and has turned a blind eye to employees accused of misconduct. In some cases, the agency has failed to suspend officers who themselves had been arrested in connection with 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. Of the 41 arrests this year, 28 were of Bureau of Prisons employees or contractors. The FBI had just five. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives each had two.

The numbers highlight how criminal behavior by some employees festers inside a federal prison system meant to punish and rehabilitate people who have committed bad acts. The revelations come as advocates are pushing the Biden administration to get serious about fixing the bureau.

In one case unearthed by the AP, the agency allowed an official at a federal prison in Mississippi, whose job it was to investigate misconduct of other staff members, to remain in his position after he was arrested on charges of stalking and harassing fellow employees. That official was also allowed to continue investigating a staff member who had accused him of a crime.

In a statement to the AP, the Justice Department said it “will not tolerate staff misconduct, particularly criminal misconduct.” The department said it is “committed to holding accountable any employee who abuses a position of trust, which we have demonstrated through federal criminal prosecutions and other means.”

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Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland has said his deputy, Lisa Monaco, meets regularly with Bureau of Prisons officials to address issues plaguing the agency.

Federal prison workers in nearly every job function have been charged with crimes. 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.

At the highest ranks, the warden of a federal women’s prison in Dublin, Calif., 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.


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