Woman who testified about conditions at FCI Dublin, thrown in solitary, transferred

DUBLIN, Calif. - A woman who has spent years of her prison sentence at FCI Dublin, and who testified about the dire conditions there this month, was thrown in a special housing unit and transferred away from the facility, she told KTVU.

"It was purely retaliation for my testimony," Rhonda Fleming wrote KTVU in an email. "The prison officials did not want the women to have an advocate with knowledge."

Fleming, 58, said that the same lieutenant she testified about in January before U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, had her put in the SHU, or special housing unit, shortly after her testimony.

In the SHU, she said she went on a hunger strike for seven days before she was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.

Fleming said she was told she was thrown in the SHU because officers found two screws in her cell, but she said that rings false: "Screws are everywhere in the buildings due to all the repairs and patching up that is done. The incident report went nowhere."

In all her years at FCI Dublin, Fleming had never been to the SHU before.

"It was horrible and 100% out of compliance," she wrote. "The women had no shampoo, no access to the law library, [it's], freezing cold, wet cells, very small portions of cold food, and the prison officials continue to mislead the judge on what items inmates can have in the SHU."

Fleming was sentenced in 2010 to 30 years in prison because of Medicare fraud.

The Bureau of Prisons said in an email that "for privacy, safety, and security reasons, we do not discuss the conditions of confinement for any individual in our custody."

However, in general, the BOP said it is its mission to "operate facilities that are safe, secure, and humane."

Any incarcerated person with a complaint can filed it through the "Administrative Remedy Program," the BOP email stated.

But Kara Janssen, an attorney who is suing FCI Dublin over the sexual abuse and retaliatory behavior at the prison in a case called California Coalition of Women Prisoners, said Fleming's transfer sure looks like it was done to get rid of her before Gonzalez Rogers visits the prison sometime this month.

Janssen and her team called Fleming to testify on their behalf because she has institutional knowledge of FCI Dublin and has been a vocal advocate for the women there, helping them speak out and writing legal briefs to document their claims.

"I mean, she just testified and then she was just transferred to LA?" Janssen told KTVU on Monday. "We are, of course, concerned that it's retaliation. All of a sudden, the month the judge is supposed to make a surprise visit, she's moved? Rhonda has been so vocal."

In addition, some of the incarcerated women's lawyers said that Fleming isn't alone. Other women who testified in a civil case to reform FCI Dublin have had their psychiatric medications taken away, been strip searched for no apparent reason and one woman was told her daughter cannot visit her.

Late last month, Gonzalez Rogers told Associate Warden Pat Deveney that she planned to visit the all-women's prison without much notice, so she could see how things operate. She is being asked to decide whether to appoint a special master over the prison, or impose other conditions to reign in the rampant sexual abuse and punishments there for speaking out.

The judge said she would email him one evening after 9 p.m. sometime in February and show up the next day at 5:30 a.m. or 6 a.m. That hasn't happened yet.

But she did say that she wanted unfettered access to the facility and to be able to speak to whomever she wanted.

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@fox.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez