Ex-guard charged with 95 counts of sexual abuse in California women’s prison | California

A former correctional officer at California’s largest girls’s jail has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting not less than 13 incarcerated folks over almost a decade, prosecutors stated on Wednesday.

Gregory Rodriguez, who labored on the Central California Ladies’s Facility earlier than he retired final 12 months whereas below investigation, has been charged with 95 counts of sexual abuse, together with rape, sodomy, sexual battery and rape below colour of authority, the Madera county district legal professional’s workplace stated, in addition to one drug-related cost. The assaults date again to 2014, however principally occurred within the final two years, prosecutors stated.

Advocates say the fees scratch the floor of systemic misconduct and sexual violence within the girls’s jail, and correctional authorities final 12 months stated investigators had recognized greater than 22 victims of Rodriguez’s abuse.

Former California prison officer Gregory Rodriguez.
Former California jail officer Gregory Rodriguez. {Photograph}: Courtesy of Madera county district legal professional’s workplace

Rodriguez, 54, was being held on $7.8m bail, and it was not clear if he had a lawyer.If convicted on all costs, Rodriguez might be sentenced to greater than 300 years in jail.

The DA’s workplace stated the 95 costs include 39 particular person sexual assaults. A 48-page criticism alleges that Rodriguez abused folks all through the amenities, together with in a substance abuse constructing, in a clinic, earlier than and after court docket appearances and within the parole listening to space the place incarcerated folks seem earlier than commissioners who resolve whether or not to grant their freedom. He’s additionally accused of bringing heroin into the jail.

Advocates working with survivors stated there was a tradition of abuse, worry and retaliation within the facility that allowed him to proceed his conduct for years.

At a state listening to final month, state senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas famous that Rodriguez was accused of abusing greater than 1% of all the girls’s jail inhabitants, and that allegations towards him date again greater than 10 years: “Twenty-two girls got here ahead, and we all know when girls come ahead, there are sometimes girls and different victims who don’t.”

She additionally famous a 2021 inspector basic report that discovered the California division of corrections and rehabilitation (CDCR) poorly dealt with greater than 60% of all complaints towards workers by incarcerated folks.

Gregory Rodriguez was arrested on charges including rape, sodomy, sexual battery and rape.
Gregory Rodriguez was arrested on costs together with rape, sodomy, sexual battery and rape. {Photograph}: Courtesy of Madera county district legal professional’s workplace

“If one officer is getting away with this for greater than a decade, he’s backed up by different officers and by the system, which isn’t solely permitting the tradition of sexual violence to proceed, however condoning it,” stated Colby Lenz, an advocate with the California Coalition for Ladies Prisoners, a bunch that has been helping the survivors. “This isn’t only one unhealthy apple.”

The ladies’s jail the place Rodriguez labored for 12 years is situated in Chowchilla, a small metropolis about 120 miles (190km) south-east of San Francisco. Rodriguez retired in August after being approached in regards to the assaults as a part of an inner investigation, CDCR stated in December.

The investigation, which discovered that Rodriguez might have engaged in sexual misconduct towards not less than 22 incarcerated folks, was handed over to the district legal professional’s workplace earlier this 12 months. Rodriguez had labored for CDCR since 1995.

“These allegations are under no circumstances a mirrored image on the overwhelming majority of correctional officers who act professionally and do their greatest to verify prisoners serve their time whereas remaining secure,” the DA’s workplace stated on Wednesday. “It’s our hope that the elimination and arrest of this defendant encourages them to proceed of their honorable occupation upholding the legislation every single day.”

Two unidentified accusers filed lawsuits in December alleging Rodriguez sexually assaulted them on the jail, which holds about 2,100 residents.

Survivors who’ve spoken up have confronted persistent retaliation, stated Lenz: “They reside in terror each from the trauma of the sexual violence itself and ongoing harassment and retaliation by officers, and so they by no means have an opportunity to correctly grieve or heal. They need to proceed to reside with their abusers who’ve the keys to their cells.”

Advocates have referred to as on the state to expedite the discharge of survivors.

“They’re continuously below risk. It’s horrific and very isolating, and there may be nowhere secure to show inside,” stated Amika Mota, govt director of the Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition, one other group working with the victims.

A CDCR spokesperson on Thursday pointed to the division’s earlier assertion on the investigation into Rodriguez, which stated “retaliation towards anybody who studies these sorts of allegations in addition to retaliation towards those that cooperate with investigations is just not tolerated”.

A 2003 federal legislation referred to as the Jail Rape Elimination Act created a “zero-tolerance” coverage for the sexual assault of incarcerated folks. However California jail officers have nonetheless been accused of sexual misconduct in recent times. That features Israel Trevino, a former correctional officer on the Central California Ladies’s Facility, who was fired in 2018 after being accused of groping and making sexually harassing feedback.

An Related Press investigation discovered {that a} high-ranking federal bureau of prisons official, who previously labored at a girls’s jail within the San Francisco Bay Space, was repeatedly promoted after allegations that he assaulted detainees. One other investigation discovered a sample of sexual abuse by correctional officers on the girls’s facility. The US authorities is now going through a backlash for in search of to deport survivors of the abuse who’re additionally non-citizens.

Latest civil instances have additionally uncovered widespread sexual abuse of youth inside juvenile prisons in Los Angeles.

A majority of these accusations lengthen past California. Former jail officers in Kentucky and New Jersey have lately been charged with sexually abusing or assaulting incarcerated folks.