UPDATE: Ray Garcia was found guilty of eight charges in court today, Thursday, Dec. 8, and faces up to 15 years in prison. He was among five workers charged with abusing inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin.
The ongoing trial of a former warden at the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin is providing an unprecedented look at what some allege has been the systematic abuse of women inmates by prison officials at the facility over the years.
The trial of former warden Ray J. Garcia brought years of allegations into focus. Garcia, 55, of Merced, is one of five correctional officers to be charged with sex crimes at the all-women’s prison and the highest ranking federal prison official to be arrested on suspicion of these crimes.
Earlier this year, Prison Chaplain James Theodore Highhouse was sentenced to seven years in prison — more than double the recommended punishment — after pleading guilty to repeatedly sexually abusing an incarcerated female and then lying to federal agents about his misconduct.
Highhouse warned his victims not to report him, telling one of them “no one will believe you because you’re an inmate, and I’m a chaplain,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum at the time. Highhouse is appealing his sentence.
But it was that power dynamic that has allowed similar incidents of abuse to flourish, prosecutors allege.
Garcia was associate warden at FCI Dublin from December 2018 to November 2020, when he was promoted to warden. He resigned after being charged with sex crimes in September 2021, after investigators found photos of inmates and reportedly dozens of photos of his genitals on his prison-issued work phone.
Garcia, they say, took nude photos of incarcerated women and groomed inmates with offers of candy and preferential treatment.
The former warden testified Monday that he made a mistake when he had multiple naked video chats with a woman who was in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons while she was in a halfway house in Alaska.
“I was clearly out of pocket and out of bureau policy,” Garcia said during the sixth full day of trial in Oakland where he faces eight counts of sexual abuse and one count of lying to the FBI. “We are not supposed to have contact with former inmates for two years… I made a mistake. I owned up to it by retiring…”
Garcia admitted that he hadn’t retired until a full year later, in October 2021, and only after being arrested the month before on sex abuse charges.
“You owned up to it because you were caught,” Asst. U.S. Attorney Mollie Preideman said during her cross-examination – a point for which Garcia had no reply.
FCI Dublin’s former warden said he never digitally penetrated any inmate, never showed a female prisoner his genitals and never had any sexual relationship with any incarcerated woman at all between 2019 to 2021 – the years for which he is charged.
Garcia is fighting charges he abused three inmates between December 2019 and July 2021 although as many as six women could testify Garcia forced them to pose naked or in provocative clothing.
If found guilty on all counts Garcia could face 15 years in prison.