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Feds accused of ignoring asbestos, mold at women’s prison in Dublin

By MICHAEL BALSAMO and MICHAEL R. SISAK | The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A government watchdog has found a “substantial likelihood” the federal Bureau of Prisons committed wrongdoing when it ignored complaints and failed to address asbestos and mold contamination at a federal women’s prison in California that has already been under scrutiny for rampant sexual abuse of inmates.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel now wants Attorney General Merrick Garland to step in to investigate the allegations after multiple whistleblower complaints were filed earlier this year. The office detailed its findings in a letter this past week and has asked Garland to submit a report within 60 days.

The whistleblower complaints, filed by union officials at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California, alleged that senior Bureau of Prisons officials had failed to act to resolve the allegations of workplace contamination. The union had repeatedly complained that correctional officers and other prison workers and inmates were being exposed to potentially hazardous mold and asbestos but says those concerns were ignored.

“Management’s failure to address unsafe and dangerous working conditions at FCI Dublin has put the health and safety of both employees and inmates at considerable risk,” Dublin union president Edward Canales said. “We look forward to the outcome of this investigation, which we hope will result in the unsafe conditions being remedied and appropriate disciplinary actions being taken against the managers who failed to act.”

The Justice Department has already been investigating serious misconduct at Dublin, where five employees — including the former warden — have been charged with sexually abusing inmates. An Associated Press investigation this year revealed a pattern of sexual misconduct and detailed a toxic culture that enabled it to continue for years.

The Federal Correctional Institution is shown in Dublin, Calif., July 20, 2006. A government watchdog has found a “substantial likelihood” the federal Bureau of Prisons committed wrongdoing when it ignored complaints and failed to address asbestos and mold contamination at the federal women’s prison in California that has already been under scrutiny for rampant sexual abuse of inmates. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File) 

After the AP’s investigation was published, whistleblowers at the prison said they were being attacked for speaking up. The Bureau of Prisons launched a task force of 18 senior executives who visited the prison in March to assess the conditions there and work to reform the facility. The agency’s director, Michael Carvajal, also visited the prison.

The Justice Department said Saturday it had received the letter and “appreciates OSC’s responsiveness to these concerns.” It said the Bureau of Prisons was “addressing concerns raised by staff at Dublin and working to ensure that all facilities are operating under safe, healthy conditions.”



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