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A women’s prison local to LPC has been dubbed the “rape club” after years of rampant sexual abuse within the facility was uncovered by authorities. Of a prison population of 605, a handful of the incarcerated women were taught by LPC’s own. 

On April 15, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced that the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin – a low-security federal prison for female inmates known as FCI Dublin – would be shut down for the foreseeable future.

LPC’s Rising Scholars Program, which is part of a larger Rising Scholars Network across California, provides educational services and opportunities for incarcerated women. For the past several years, Las Positas professors have taught student-inmates at FCI Dublin.

In 2021, the FBI launched an investigation into the prison. Eight FCI employees were charged with sexually abusing inmates. In March of this year, the FBI raided the facility. After the prison was confronted with nearly 60 lawsuits from women incarcerated there and a class-action lawsuit alleging sexual assault and retaliation for reporting incidents from guards and other prison officials, the Federal Bureau of Prisons took further action. 

According to the BOP, the closure of FCI Dublin would be temporary. For the 203 employees of FCI Dublin, BOP stated nobody would lose their jobs. However, for the 605 incarcerated women, this closure of FCI Dublin meant that a majority of them have since been transferred via bus to high-security prisons across the country. With inmates being transferred away from their families and temporarily barred from video-visits, the life they knew at FCI Dublin was effectively upended.

This includes all of the women participating in LPC’s Rising Scholars program. Inevitably, the situation at FCI Dublin would ultimately lead the program and the education of the inmates to an abrupt halt.

LPC partnered with FCI Dublin back in 2020 in a project called the Las Positas College’s Adult Education Project — now titled Noncredit Business Academy — bringing seven college courses to inmates and the opportunity to complete two certificates in Small Business Management and Customer Service. 

By the fall of 2021, LPC had launched the Women’s Business Initiative with the BOP. The initiative enlisted selected inmates and provided them the opportunity to pursue an Associate’s degree in Business Administration. This allowed students in the facility to gain skills required for transfer – with credits pertaining specifically to business –  to California’s public university systems and other higher education institutions.

Both of these programs would be housed under the Rising Scholars program umbrella.

Kimberly Tomlinson is a professor of religious studies at LPC. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, she volunteered to teach incarcerated students for a semester at FCI Dublin.

“It’s a lot of unknowns,” Tomlinson said. “I don’t know how far along they were or if they were even in the middle of a semester when the shutdown happened.”

Traci Peterson, LPC’s current Education Partnerships Project Manager, now handles the Rising Scholars program at LPC. She took up the role of her predecessor Emerald Templeton in January of this year after Templeton’s departure from LPC in September in 2023. Templeton had been the coordinator for the business program within the Rising Scholars program in partnership with FCI Dublin in 2020. 

Peterson recalls what she observed while visiting Rising Scholar students in the Dublin facility.

“The students are amazing and so happy to be in the classes, and it was a really great experience,” she said. “We had plans, so it was really a disappointment, especially for the faculty. And of course, the students in the program are the ones who lose out the most by the closure of FCI Dublin.”

Before its closure almost a month ago, the program planned to have Kevin Harral, LPC’s Director of Financial Aid, as a guest speaker for the incarcerated students. 

“He was going to talk to the students about financial aid opportunities and we were hoping that our students could apply for Pell grants so it could pay for tuition,” Peterson said. 

In July 2023, all incarcerated students in California and throughout the country became eligible for federal Pell Grants.

There were even talks about doing graduation ceremonies for the students within the Rising Scholars program.

In regards to finding another facility, there are no other women’s federal prisons within the Bay Area. “There’s only 122 federal prisons in the country,” Peterson added. “I don’t think there’s one nearby, but we’re going to do the work we’re called to do wherever it is, we’ll figure it out.”

The program has the entire summer to prepare itself for the chance to support FCI Dublin upon its reinstatement or another facility, possibly within the next year. 

On the program’s future, Peterson said, “Right now we’re really trying to focus on a couple areas so in the next year we can really build up a program that we’re proud of that will still serve those people that need the services.” 

”Even though now FCI Dublin is closed, we’re just getting started. We have a new Rising Scholars grant, we’re excited and we’re ready to go.”

On May 1, BOP spokesman Scott Taylor said, “No women are remaining at FCI Dublin.” 

It is currently unknown when the facility will reopen, and if inmates — especially those who were on track to acquire their certificate or associate degree from LPC’s Rising Scholars program — would ever return, if at all. 

James Sevilla is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him on X, formally Twitter, @JamesTSev.

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