San Francisco Chronicle

Guard at Dublin prison sentenced for sex abuse

- By Bob Egelko Reach Bob Egelko: begelko@sfchronicl­; Twitter: @egelko

A former guard at the federal women’s prison in Dublin was sentenced Thursday to 20 months in prison for groping an inmate at the troubled institutio­n, where the former warden and a chaplain have also been convicted of sexual abuse.

Enrique Chavez, 50, formerly of Manteca, was an officer at the Federal Correction­al Institutio­n, where he worked as a food supervisor and foreman in the prison pantry. He pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of abusive sexual contact.

Prosecutor­s said Chavez admitted that in October 2020, when a woman he was supervisin­g was in the pantry, he locked the door, put his hand inside her underwear, touched her genitals and then touched her breasts.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez issued the sentence, which also includes 10 years of supervised release after his prison term. Chavez is due to report to prison in April.

The sentence was longer than either side in the case had sought.

Defense attorney Steven Kalar requested a sixmonth term, saying Chavez had endured an abusive childhood, was a Marine Corps veteran who had been wounded in Iraq and had cooperated fully with investigat­ors. Prosecutor­s recommende­d 16 months, saying the guard had treated female prisoners as “objects that he could use for his own sexual gratificat­ion.”

The East Bay prison, with about 650 inmates, has been wracked by disclosure­s of sexual abuse that apparently went unchecked for years. The Associated Press reported last February that workers and inmates referred to Dublin as “the rape club” and that prisoners who complained said they were ignored and even placed in solitary confinemen­t.

In December, former Warden Ray Garcia, a 32year employee of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, was convicted of seven charges of abusive sexual contact and an eighth charge of making false statements to a government agency. He is due to be sentenced in March, though his lawyers are seeking a new trial.

The prison’s former chaplain, James Highhouse, was sentenced last August to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to five felony charges of sexually abusing an inmate, who prosecutor­s said had come to him for “spiritual guidance,” and lying about it to investigat­ors.

Another former guard, Ross Klinger, has pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual abuse and awaits sentencing. Former guard John Bellhouse has been charged with sexually abusing three inmates and is scheduled to go to trial in June.

And according to another Associated Press report, the veteran Bureau of Prisons employee who briefly replaced Garcia as warden, Thomas Ray Hinkle, had an even longer history of abuse, including participat­ion in a racist gang of guards who beat up inmates at a federal prison in Colorado in the mid-1990s.

Seven of the guards were convicted of crimes or pleaded guilty, but Hinkle was not, and after a series of promotions he is now the bureau’s deputy director for the Western region. The AP said Hinkle admitted the beatings but maintained he has changed his life, and the Bureau of Prisons says he cooperated with the investigat­ion.

 ?? Ben Margot / Associated Press 2006 ?? The Federal Correction­al Institutio­n in Dublin has been wracked by disclosure­s of sexual abuse.
Ben Margot / Associated Press 2006 The Federal Correction­al Institutio­n in Dublin has been wracked by disclosure­s of sexual abuse.

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