FCI Dublin closing, women transferred to prisons across U.S.

The scandal-plagued Federal Correctional Institute at Dublin is closing just weeks after a judge ordered the all-women's prison to be placed under unprecedented oversight, KTVU has learned.

Bureau of Prisons Director Colette S. Peters told KTVU in an email on Monday that the all-women's prison is "not meeting expected standards and the best course of action is to close the facility."

It's not clear whether it's a permanent or temporary closure, and the surprise announcement comes after a judge appointed a special master to oversee reforms at the prison and an investigation revealed mold and asbestos are riddled throughout the facility. 

It's the first closure of a federal prison since the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York was shuttered in August 2021, where Jeffrey Epstein, who was facing sex-trafficking charges, died by suicide two years prior. 

Peters said that the decision is being made after "ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of those unprecedented steps and additional resources."

U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonazlez Rogers held an emergency hearing following the news and reiterated to the attorneys involved in a class action civil lawsuit that special master Wendy Still will remain in place to ensure that no one will be retaliated against. 

Gonzalez Rogers also ordered that all the women who were set to be released should not be shipped across the country until the special master can review the paperwork. 

A source who works for the BOP told KTVU that before that order was given, 100 women were moved to a Seattle detention center, where there are no female officers. The first buses left the prison at 6 a.m., a source said. After the judge's order, some buses turned back to return the women to FCI Dublin, according to some women at the prison. 

The same BOP source said that the closure is payback for the judge appointing a special master. Two formerly incarcerated women also said that this shutdown smacks of retaliation and undermines the judge's call for reforms. 

Esther Aguirre of Ontario, Calif., said she is panicked that her mother will be sent far away. 

"She don't know what's going on there," Aguirre told KTVU in an interview. "They came and told her that the whole prison is going to shut down, that they'll be shipped out by Friday, and she don't know where she's going."

She said her mom is 61 and in poor health and being incarcerated elsewhere will be a real hardship for their family - a trek that already takes five hours to visit.

Aguirre said she wished that instead of being transferred, the women could just be released.

"Why don't you let these women go now?" Aguirre asked. "You took enough time from them. So let them be free." 

Robert Murphee, the husband of a woman at FCI Dublin, hasn't spoken to his wife for two weeks and now has no idea where she'll be taken. She was supposed to be released on May 20, and he was desperate to find out her fate.  

"I'm concerned about my wife," he said. 

FCI Dublin, about 20 miles east of Oakland and is adjacent to Alameda County's Santa Rita Jail. It currently has 605 incarcerated women, down from 760 prisoners in February 2022. There are no other minimum- or low-security women's prisons in California, like FCI Dublin. There is another federal prison in Victorville, but it is medium security.  

There six other minimum- and low-security federal women's prisons in the United States are located in West Virginia, Texas, Alabama, Connecticut, Florida and Minnesota.

Buses were seen in the parking lot on Monday morning, presumably to begin taking women elsewhere. A source said that every woman inside the prison will be transferred elsewhere by Friday.

Sharon McMillan emailed KTVU from inside FCI Dublin, writing that prison management was throwing the women's personal property away, considering it "trash."

"All they are getting has to fit in one bag," McMillan wrote. "The lifers are in a panic." 

A woman who asked to be identified only as Lisa said her incarcerated niece was also very scared. 

"My niece just called me this morning," she said. "She is petrified because she doesn't know where she is going." 

Lisa said her niece was actually supposed to be released in the next week or so, and now she has no idea what her fate is.

"So whether this is a good or bad thing for the prison in general, I can't say," she said. 

Peters, the BOP director, said this move is being made after the BOP has taken "unprecedented steps and provided a tremendous amount of resources to address culture, recruitment and retention, aging infrastructure - and most critical - employee misconduct."

To date, eight correctional officers, including the warden, have been charged with sex crimes. Seven so far have been found guilty and sentenced to prison themselves. 

Still, the prison's problems have persisted. 

Earlier this month, the FBI raided the facility and that same week, Gonazlez Rogers mandated a special master to oversee reforms at FCI Dublin – the first such order in BOP history. FCI Dublin and individual correctional officers face more than 60 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct with incarcerated women in their care. 

Meanwhile, Peters said that "planning for the deactivation is currently ongoing, and we will have more updates as that process continues."

She added that none of the 203 employees would lose their jobs. It's obvious though, that people will have to move if they want to still work from the BOP. 

In a cryptic note, Peters said the closure of the institution may be temporary but "certainly will result in a mission change."

Rhonda Fleming, an incarcerated woman at FCI Dublin and another employee of the prison, told KTVU they believe that the facility could eventually house all men, but that speculation was not confirmed.

Last week, Fleming emailed KTVU with suspicions of the closure. She told KTVU she knew of several California women being held at the Oklahoma transfer center. Instead of coming to California, they are now being sent to places in Illinois, she said. 

"The evil is beyond comprehension," Fleming wrote in her email. "God will deal severely with these prison officials."

Fleming said that appointing a special master was not supposed to harm women, it was supposed to help them. 

The closure came as a surprise to the attorney who sued the BOP on behalf of eight incarcerated women who had been the victims of sexual assault, rape and retaliation. 

"This is unprecedented for the BOP," Oren Nimni, litigation director at Rights Behind Bars, whose lawsuit prompted the special master. "We were not informed as part of our case that the facility was going to be closed. So, I am definitely surprised and it is definitely a big deal. But in the grand scheme of things, it's the appropriate outcome."  


As of April 2024, seven FCI Dublin correctional officers have been sentenced for sex crimes and the eighth officer seems to be heading to trial. 

Attorney Jessica Pride, who represents several women suing correctional officers over sex abuses, said she believed that the closure is likely also the result of the mold and asbestos report that was recently released. 

"They came in and had different experts do testing who then found positive findings of both mold and asbestos," Price said. "Both of those need to be remediated. And the government knows that currently, there are women that are actively sick right now having respiratory issues and rashes. They've had doctors out there examining the women and trying to figure out how to provide them with treatment. So the best course of action is to remediate, get rid of the problem, shut down the facility so that they can actually make sure it's safe."

One thing to note about this closure is that none of the parties involved in securing the special master were told it was going to happen. 

"I mean, it's a shock," said Stephen Cha-Kim, an attorney representing the class action suit against the BOP on behalf of the women at FCI Dublin. "You know, we were not provided any kind of advance notice, which tells a lot about the approach the government has taken in keeping the welfare of the women and others who live at Dublin in mind."

On the one hand, Cha-Kim said closing FCI Dublin is a good thing because, in his opinion, this facility should even exist.

But he did note that things might get worse for women transferred away from their families and to prisons where they will inevitably face hardships as well – and won't be under the oversight of a special master. 

He added, though, the lawsuit encompasses the "class" of 600 women held at FCI Dublin, and that he and his colleagues could continue to advocate for them wherever they are in the BOP system. 

"One thing is clear, is that our case is not over," Cha-Kim said. "You know, the government for the BOP might want to ‘moot out’ the case. But we're representing a class of individuals who have suffered a lot at the hands of Dublin staff and BOP neglect, and obviously, just getting sent to other facilities isn't going to fix the systemic issues. Wherever they get sent, these individuals are human beings who we'll zealously advocate for. And so we're not just going to forget about them because they get shipped off in the middle of the night." 

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@fox.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez