Federal prison worker sentenced for abusing female inmates

A former federal correctional officer was sentenced to eight years in prison Thursday for sexually abusing women inmates in California the latest case to focus on sex abuse in the nation’s prisons.

Andrew Jones, 36, of Clovis, California, pleaded guilty on Aug. 17 to six counts of sexual abuse involving three inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution at Dublin, California, and one count of lying to the justice department’s inspector general, U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a release. He was sentenced to 96 months in prison.

Jones was also ordered to serve ten years of supervised release after his prison term, justice officials said. He is expected back in court on Feb. 8 for a restitution hearing.

The egregious sexual abuse that took place at FCI Dublin was disgraceful and tragic, and the Justice Department will not rest until we have eliminated such misconduct from the Federal Bureau of Prisons,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco in a statement. “As the defendant’s guilty plea and today’s sentencing demonstrate, FBOP employees who abuse their positions of authority and assault those in their custody will be held to account.”

The prison is still under investigation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Jones is one of eight officers at FCI Dublin charged with sexual misconduct in the last three years, prosecutors said.

“The Federal Bureau of Prisons strongly condemns all forms of sexually abusive behavior and takes seriously our duty to protect the individuals entrusted in our custody,” a spokesperson told USA Today in an email. “The FBOP has taken assertive action at FCI Dublin to make changes regarding safety and communication. While this work is not complete, it is a serious and ongoing effort.”

Jones was a correctional officer at FCI Dublin in Alameda County and supervised inmates working in the food services department, prosecutors said. The all-women minimum-security prison houses 714 inmates.

Officials said Jones admitted that between July 2020 and June 2021, while he had supervisory and disciplinary authority over the women inmates, he received oral sex or had sexual intercourse with three inmates who worked for him in the facility’s kitchen. Authorities said the abuse occurred in places like a staff bathroom, a warehouse, and a room where utensils were kept.

Prosecutors said Jones “enforced silence and obedience” from inmates by using “violence and threats of violence.”

“Intimidation and insults on the one hand, and the flattery on the other, was aimed at cultivating pliant prisoners who Jones could abuse for his own sexual pleasure, while he remained safe in the belief that his misconduct would go unreported,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum.

Prosecutors said seven other correctional officers at FCI Dublin have been charged with federal crimes involving sexual misconduct in the last three years. Jones is the fourth to be sentenced. Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said in a statement that Jones, the warden, the chaplain and other facility employees “participated in a culture of sexual abuse of female inmates.”

As of May 2022, officials said at least 17 current or former employees at FCI Dublin are being investigated for sexual misconduct. The prison has had at least three high-profile cases of sexual abuse of women prisoners. A senate report released in late 2022 details some of the FCI Dublin employees charged in recent years.

In June 2021, Ross Klinger, a former correctional officer, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual abuse of a ward. In November that year, officer John Bellhouse was accused of abuse of a prison ward. Officials said Bellhouse engaged in sexual interactions with several inmates and provided them with contraband, money and personal cell phone use.

That same month, Ray J. Garcia, the former Warden of FCI Dublin, was indicted on two counts of sexual abuse of a ward for knowingly having sexual contact with at least one woman inmate and for asking at least two of them to strip during rounds as he took photos. He was convicted by a jury in December 2022.

James Highhouse, a former Chaplain at FCI Dublin, in August 2022 was sentenced to 84 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for charges of sexual abuse of a ward, abusive sexual contact, and making false statements to investigators.

On Oct. 27, 2022, Enrique Chavez, a food service foreman at FCI Dublin, pleaded guilty to two counts of abusive sexual contact with a woman inmate.

“This ongoing investigation has unearthed evidence regarding the criminal activities of numerous employees at the Federal Correctional Institution at Dublin,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Ismail Ramsey in a statement. “To be clear, this investigation is not over – correctional officers at FCI Dublin are trusted to secure the safety of inmates at the institution; the Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable any correctional officer who violates that solemn responsibility.”

Donald Murphy, U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokesperson, told USA Today that senior subject matter experts across all disciplines were sent to the facility to assess short-term and long-term needs. Psychological and religious resources have been offered to women in custody.

Murphy said the bureau has a contract with an external consulting firm experienced in best practices in facilities serving women in the justice system. He said the firm is training all facility staff to promote safety, communication, boundaries and trauma-informed care.

“We are fully committed to gaining the confidence of the public, the individuals in our care and custody, and the employees at FCI Dublin,” Murphy said in an email. “Our work is grounded in the expectation that changes at the facility are focused on safety and create strong accountability at every level of the organization.”

Sexual abuse of adult inmates is an ongoing problem in U.S. jails and prisons, with thousands of victims of inmate-on-inmate abuse and staff-on-inmate abuse reported during 2016 through 2018, according to a special report by the U.S. Department of Justice released earlier this year.

According to the senate investigations report, four facilities in New York, Florida and California with woman inmates had recurring cases of sexual abuse from male employees between 2012 and 2022. FCI Dublin was among the prisons listed.

In October, a former Oregon Department of Corrections nurse was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for sexually assaulting nine woman inmates while working at a correctional facility.

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