As part of our ongoing efforts to help former female inmates who were sexually abused at jails and prisons, Levy Konigsberg is actively investigating claims involving sexual abuse at the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Chino.

New California laws have expanded the rights of sexual abuse survivors to file claims for financial compensation. There are many different laws that apply to sexual abuse cases in California. Contact us today to learn about your legal rights, even if the sexual abuse occurred many years or even decades ago.

If you were sexually abused by a corrections officer, prison staff member, or volunteer while serving a sentence at CIW, you may be entitled to compensation – and our team at Levy Konigsberg can help. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us for a FREE consultation.

Staff-on-Inmate Abuse at California Institution for Women (CIW)

California Institution for Women (CIW) is a women’s state prison operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Although its mailing address lists Corona, a city in Riverside County, CIW has been physically located in Chino since 2003, following an annexation of land in unincorporated San Bernardino County. The prison was originally opened in its present-day location in 1952 as the California Institution for Women at Corona and was the only women’s prison in the state until 1987.

Like other jails and prisons in California, CIW has a dark history of rampant sexual abuse and harassment committed by guards and prison staff against female inmates. This is illustrated by years of criminal cases against corrections officers, civil lawsuits, and numerous substantiated claims. Some examples include:

  • In 2017 alone, three corrections officers at CIW were terminated and charged with felony sex crimes for sexual contact with inmates at or near their housing units. The officers were Robert Darrow, who was charged with assaulted an inmate in May 2017, Officer Tony Garcia, who forced an inmate to perform oral sex on him in her cell that same month, and Officer Stephen Merrill, who groped two female inmates after entering their cell at 3:30am on October 30, 2017. Merrill and Garcia pleaded guilty to their charges.
  • In July 2016, a former female inmate filed a federal lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation over allegations that she was sexually assaulted repeatedly by a CIW correctional officer over the course of six months. According to the federal complaint, the 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.
  • In 2012, two women filed a lawsuit in court alleging that prison officials failed to protect them from sexual abuse by guards while they were incarcerated at CIW in 2010. The suit claimed that former CIW warden Guillermo Garcia ignored multiple complaints that Officer Gary Swatzell was assaulting several female inmates and that, in retaliation for reporting his misconduct, Garcia ignored a complaint from a lieutenant who claimed she was also assaulted by Swatzell. Swatzell impregnated one of the inmates and was later charged and sentenced to two years in jail.
  • In 2017, two important rulings were handed down in the case of the 2012 lawsuit mentioned above. This included a Ninth Circuit Court ruling that former warden Garcia was not immune from liability for failures to prevent repeated sexual abuse at the hands of prison guards, and a ruling from a California federal district court imposing sanctions against prison officials for failing to properly respond to the two plaintiffs’ discovery requests. This included the CIW and the CDCR claiming that Garcia’s file had been shredded despite it being subject to a litigation hold and Garcia himself testifying that he voluntarily retired, when in fact he was involuntarily terminated due to his mishandling of sexual misconduct cases at CIW.

California Institution for Women (CIW) Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

The passage of new laws in California may provide new opportunities for victims of sexual assault and abuse to file civil lawsuits that may have once been barred by the statute of limitations. Your options for pursuing justice and compensation under California’s new sexual abuse law will depend on the facts of your case, and particularly when the abuse occurred. Given the limited amount of time for victims to pursue legal action, we strongly encourage former CIW inmates with potential claims to reach out to our team as soon as possible.

Leaders in Fighting for Abused Female Inmates

Levy Konigsberg is a U.S. News “Best Law Firms” ranked trial firm that’s recovered over $3 billion in compensation for clients. Now, we’re leading the fight for former female inmates who were sexually abused at jails and prisons in California, New York, and other states across the country.

Thanks to new laws that could allow survivors to step forward with claims that may have been barred by expired statutes of limitations, we represent a growing number of women who were abused and assaulted by corrections officers and other jail or prison staff members during their incarcerations.

Our work in this area includes:

Our team is highly experienced at litigating these challenging and important cases, and has the resources to take on powerful institutions, corrections departments, and state defense attorneys. If you have questions about our work and how we might be able to help you with a CIW sexual abuse claim, call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.

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