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It’s criminal: AP investigation reveals federal prison employees charged with misconduct, crimes

FILE - The Federal Correctional Institution is shown in Dublin, Calif., July 20, 2006. Nearly 100 federal Bureau of Prisons employees have been arrested, convicted or sentenced in criminal cases since the start of 2019, accused of crimes from smuggling drugs and weapons to stealing prison property, sexually assaulting inmates and murder. Those arrested include Ray Garcia, the warden at the Federal Correctional Institution at Dublin. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

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In AP’s latest investigation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, reporters Mike Balsamo and Mike Sisak found that the dangerous individuals inside federal prisons include some BOP staffers.

The reporting started with a tip that the FBI was raiding the warden’s office at the federal women’s prison in Dublin, California, where former Hollywood stars Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman served their sentences. The AP pair broke the news that the FBI was at the prison, questioning the warden. Weeks later, he was arrested on charges of molesting an inmate multiple times.

Balsamo,AP’s lead federal law enforcement reporter,and New York-based reporter Sisak set out to determine how widespread misconduct was within the agency,tapping a network of sources developed during the past two years and poring over hundreds of pages of court documents and police reports. They collected and analyzed every relevant public statement over the past decade from the Justice Department’s inspector general regarding DOJ employees.

The database they built helped identify more than 100 federal prison workers who have been arrested,convicted or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019,including the warden indicted for sexual abuse as well as an associate warden charged with murder. In one case uncovered by the pair,the agency allowed an official at a federal prison in Mississippi,whose job it was to investigate misconduct of other staff members, to remain in his position after he was arrested on charges of stalking and harassing fellow employees. Two-thirds of the criminal cases against Justice Department personnel in recent years have involved federal prison workers. This year alone 28 BOP employees and contractors have been arrested. The next highest DOJ agency has had five.

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The Federal Corrections Complex in Yazoo City, Miss., is shown in February 2007. At right is the administration building. An official at the facility, whose job was to investigate misconduct of other staff members, remained in his position after he was arrested on charges of stalking and harassing fellow employees. He was also allowed to continue investigating a staff member who had accused him of a crime. – AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis

The deeply reported story played heavily online and on the front pages of papers across the country,from the San Diego Union-Tribune to the Orlando Sentinel. Dozens of others featured it prominently. The story generated dozens of tips about other allegations and prompted the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee,Dick Durbin,to demand that Attorney General Merrick Garland fire the director of the beleaguered agency.

For continuing to hold accountable an agency that by its nature is hidden away and locked out of public view, Balsamo and Sisak earn AP’s Best of the Week — Second Winner honors.

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