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California Institute for Women (CIW) in Chino Investigation Finds "Systemic Abuse”—Victims of Sexual Abuse May Seek Justice & Compensation

California Institute for Women (CIW) in Chino Investigation Finds "Systemic Abuse”—Victims of Sexual Abuse May Seek Justice & Compensation


The team at Consumer Justice Action urges victims that suffered from sexual abuse by a correctional officer, prison guard, or parole officer in 2013 or after to request a free, private case evaluation.

Women that were sexually abused by a correctional officer, prison guard, or parole officer in 2013 or after may be eligible for compensation.

A former California Institution for Women warden can face trial for allegedly failing to stop a guard from sexually abusing female inmates—which in one case resulted in an inmate’s pregnancy

Two female prisoners at the California Institution for Women in Chino, located in San Bernardino County, were attacked during the course of a sting operation to catch a former California correctional officer in the act after he was accused of sexual harassment and assault.

Plaintiffs Jossie Ramos and Melissa Ortiz were incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in 2010 when Guillermo Garcia was warden.

Mr. Garcia ignored several reports from a prison lieutenant that former Corrections Officer Gary Swatzell was engaging in sexual misconduct with several inmates.

Ramos and Ortiz were repeatedly coerced into engaging in sexual acts with former Corrections Officer Gary Swatzell without their lawful consent

After one encounter, Ramos was impregnated by Swatzell and delivered a child who she is now unable to care for and raise.

He and four other workers at the facility have been charged with abusing women at the embattled complex, accused of breaking a law prohibiting sexual contact between prison workers and inmates.

Corrections officers Jason Horigan, Ricardo Llamas, Sgt. Luis Flores, Lt. Peggy Maldonado, and Matthew Cate, secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Some of the women spoke out, exposing the horrors they endured at the federal prison that came to be known as the “rape club”.

Now Swatzell is potentially looking at serving his own sentence as his trial has begun in a case that has shocked America and shone a terrible spotlight on the abuses and crimes committed in its sprawling penal system.

The case against the retired warden stands out because he was the highest-ranking federal prison official arrested in more than 10 years, and charged with abusing at least three women under his supervision.

Another woman testified on Wednesday that Garcia showed her two cellphone photos of his genitals and kissed her.

Then, when she was later living at a halfway house, he took nude photos of her during video calls—something to which she didn’t consent and initially didn’t know about.

An AP investigation timeline found that complaints like the ones against Garcia dated back at least five years, though it is not clear that any of them sparked meaningful action.


[2017] Felony sex crimes for three CIW corrections officers, who were charged with sexual contact with inmates and then fired.

  • [May] Robert Darrow charged with assaulting an inmate
  • [May] Officer Tony Garcia pleaded guilty to forcing an inmate to perform oral sex on him
  • [October] Officer Stephen Merrill pleaded guilty to groping two female inmates after entering their cell


[2016] Federal lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [CDCR] filed by a female inmate

  • Alleged that she was sexually assaulted repeatedly for 6 months by a CIW correctional officer
  • Officer Michael Ewell “had a history of sexually assaulting women” that was well known to the CDCR
  • Ewell was reportedly terminated in May 2015 after working at CIW for two years


[2012] Federal lawsuit alleges that prison officials failed to protect female inmates from sexual abuse by guards 

  • Former CIW warden Guillermo Garcia ignored multiple complaints that Officer Gary Swatzell assaulted several female inmates
  • In retaliation for reporting his misconduct, Garcia ignored a complaint from a lieutenant who claimed she was also assaulted by Swatzell
  • Swatzell was charged and sentenced to two years in jail for impregnating one of the inmates


[2017] Two important rulings were handed down in the case of the 2012 lawsuit

  • A Ninth Circuit Court ruled that ex-warden Garcia was liable for failures to prevent repeated sexual abuse of inmates by prison guards
  • A California federal district court ruling imposed sanctions against prison officials for failing to properly respond to two discovery requests.
    • The CIW and the CDCR claimed that Garcia’s file had been shredded despite it being subject to a litigation hold
    • Garcia himself testified that he voluntarily retired when he was involuntarily terminated due to his mishandled CIW sexual misconduct cases

New California laws may provide opportunities for victims of sexual assault/abuse to file civil lawsuits despite former statutes of limitation.

California’s new sexual abuse laws open options to pursue justice and compensation depending on when the abuse occurred and other facts of the case.

The team at Consumer Justice Action believes that victims that suffered from sexual abuse by a correctional officer, prison guard, or parole officer in 2013 or after should receive justice and compensation for losses.

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