Investigators question warden at California women’s prison

Federal investigators questioned the warden of a federal women’s prison in California and searched his office on Thursday, weeks after a former correctional officer at the facility was arrested on charges of sexually abusing inmates.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Thursday’s activity at the Federal Correctional Institution at Dublin was connected to last month’s arrest. Documents pertaining to Thursday’s search remained sealed. The FBI said it wasn’t able to provide details about the case.

In a statement, an FBI spokesperson confirmed that agents “conducted court authorized law enforcement activity” at the low-security Bay Area prison.

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

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

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

Messages seeking comment were left with the federal Bureau of Prisons and the main office at FCI Dublin. The person who answered the phone at the prison said the warden wasn’t immediately available.

FCI Dublin, 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Oakland, opened in 1974, and was converted to an all-female facility in 2012. One of five all-women prisons in the federal system, it currently houses about 750 inmates.

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

Last month, former FCI Dublin correctional officer and recycling technician Ross Klinger was arrested on charges he abused his authority and coerced two inmates into sexual activity. According to prosecutors, Klinger, 36, told the inmates that he wanted to marry them and father their children. He also gave them money and gifts, prosecutors said.

Klinger was released to home confinement and is scheduled for a status hearing in September. Klinger’s lawyer declined to comment Thursday.

The AP reported last month that senior Biden administration officials were discussing whether to remove Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal, a holdover from the Trump administration who has been at the center of the agency’s myriad crises. He remains on the job.

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

And over the past 18 months, 29 prisoners have escaped from federal lockups across the U.S., with nearly half not caught. At some institutions, doors are left unlocked, security cameras are broken, and officials sometimes don’t notice an inmate is missing for hours.

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