Federal Prison Closure Leads to Chaotic Transfers for Inmates

The closure of the women’s federal prison in Dublin, California, intended to address a history of abuse and dysfunction, has instead sparked chaos and frustration during the hurried transfer of 600 inmates to facilities as distant as Minnesota and Miami.

Inmates describe their journeys, both by bus and plane, lacking necessary medical prescriptions and hygiene products. Vaudencia Hamilton, an inmate transferred to Miami, recounted enduring tight handcuffs for hours, going without diabetes medication, and feeling dizzy and nauseated throughout the trip.

The decision to shutter the federal correctional institution follows revelations of a “rap* club” culture among jail officers, resulting in criminal charges against eight officers, with six convicted. One judge characterized the facility, plagued by mold and asbestos, as a “dysfunctional mess.”

However, for Hamilton and others, the transfers have felt like punishment. Several inmates and their relatives expressed distress over the chaotic and anxiety-inducing move, with some inmates spending hours on buses without explanation and enduring frozen sandwiches as their only meal.

Inmate Sara Victoria described the confusion and fear during the transfers, stating, “We just didn’t know where we were going and what we were doing.”

Maria Morales Rodriguez, another inmate, detailed scenes of emotional distress and desperation among prisoners during the transfers, including self-harm and vomiting.

Those with children in the Bay Area fear losing contact with their families, while others worry about disrupted release plans and adjusting to new environments. Margarita Rosales emphasized, “I understand that we’re criminals. But we’re still human beings.”

Benjamin O’Cone, a spokesperson for the federal Bureau of Prisons, declined to address inmates’ concerns directly, citing the need to close the facility due to failures to meet expected standards.

The closure of the Dublin facility, which has housed notable inmates like Heidi Fleiss and Patty Hearst, has drawn legal challenges. The California Coalition For Women Prisoners sought an emergency order to halt transfers, but most inmates had already been moved by Sunday.

Despite assurances to keep inmates close to their release locations, families like Thuy Nguyen’s face difficulties as family members are sent thousands of miles away.