WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal law enforcement officer in a California women’s prison was charged with sexually abusing an inmate Friday just months after the prison director was arrested for similar conduct.
The officer, John Russell Bellhouse, is the youngest member of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to be charged with criminal misconduct in a corruption and misconduct prison system. The Associated Press reported last month that since 2019, more than 100 Bureau of Prisons employees have been arrested, convicted or convicted of crimes because the agency turned a blind eye to allegations of misconduct.
Bellhouse worked at FCI Dublin, where actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin spent time for their involvement in the college bribery scandal. He is the third prison employee to be charged with sexually abusing inmates in recent months.
The Bureau of Prisons has faced a variety of crises in recent years, from the rampant spread of the coronavirus and its failed response to the pandemic, to dozens of escapes, deaths and critically low staffing levels that have hampered emergency response.
FCI Dublin supervisor Ray Garcia was arrested in September and later charged with harassing an inmate on multiple occasions, at set times, asking her to undress in front of him and a series of nude photos of her on his of the Government issued piled phone. A recycling technician was also arrested for forcing two inmates into sexual activities. Several other prison staff are still under investigation.
Prosecutors allege Bellhouse – who was arrested Thursday and appeared before a federal judge on Friday – “began to express interest in a particular female inmate and began calling the inmate his ‘girlfriend’ in 2020”. Authorities claim he touched the woman inappropriately and that she performed oral sex twice on Bellhouse in the prison security office.
Any sexual activity between a prison officer and an inmate is illegal.
Prosecutors say Bellhouse allowed the woman to use an office phone – in violation of Bureau of Prisons guidelines – and also gave her earrings. Another detainee was hired to act like a lookout during at least one of the sexual encounters, prosecutors say.
Bellhouse was on leave when the allegations became known in March 2021. In January he will have to go back to court.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to dismiss the director of the Bureau of Prisons. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Said Thursday that director Michael Carvajal has “no intention of reforming the institution” and doubled his call for Carvajal to be removed.