If you were sexually abused by a prison guard, staff member, or volunteer while serving a sentence at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, CA, you may be entitled to compensation.
Under new laws in California, sexual assault and abuse survivors may now have the ability to file civil claims over abuse that occurred many years ago. Even if the abuse occurred decades ago, you should contact us to find out about your legal rights. Our team at Levy Konigsberg is standing by to help you understand whether you are eligible to file a lawsuit for financial compensation.
Why Choose Levy Konigsberg?
Levy Konigsberg is a U.S. News “Best Law Firms” ranked civil trial practice that’s earned national acclaim for our work fighting on behalf of sexual abuse survivors. Now, we’re leading the fight against correctional facilities responsible for toxic cultures that enabled staff-on-inmate abuse and allowed retaliation and cover-ups to go unchecked.
Reasons why we’re trusted by a growing number of former female inmates:
- Over $3 Billion Recovered. We’ve won over $3 billion in compensation for clients, record-setting verdicts and settlements, and landmark victories in high-profile cases across the country.
- Proven Results in Sex Abuse Litigation. Our firm has litigated sex abuse claims against some of the country’s most powerful institutions, helping countless survivors obtain long-overdue justice.
- Award-Winning Attorneys. We field a team of proven and highly respected trial lawyers, including attorneys routinely named to Super Lawyers and The Best Lawyers in America.
Discuss your eligibility for filing a civil lawsuit over sexual abuse during your incarceration at the Central California Women’s Facility. Call (800) 315-3806 for a FREE and confidential consultation.
Staff-on-Inmate Sex Abuse at CCWF
Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) is a female-only state prison in Chowchilla, California operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). It is the largest female-only correctional facility in the country and is located adjacent to Valley State Prison, which was formerly Valley State Prison for Women.
As with other female-only jails and prisons across California, Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) has been embroiled by a dark legacy of sexual abuse. This includes years of alleged and substantiated claims involving female inmates being abused by prison guards and staff, as well as investigative reports and internal records indicating that the problem was rampant.
Internal Investigation Confirms Sexual Abuse at CCWF
In December 2022, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced that it had referred an investigation into former CCWF Correctional Officer Gregory Rodriguez to the Madera County DA’s Office for charges of sexual misconduct against incarcerated women.
According to the announcement, an investigation conducted by CDCR’s Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) and CCWR Investigative Services Unit (ISU) in July 2022 identified over 22 potential victims who may have been sexually abused by Rodriguez. As Mike Pallares, the CCWF Warden who oversaw the investigation into Rodriguez, admitted:
“Rodriguez shamefully hid behind his badge and used it to victimize a vulnerable population. That is one of the most abhorrent acts one can commit in a peace officer position and once my investigative team uncovered his wrongdoing, I referred it to the Madera County District Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution.”
Rodriguez had been employed by the CDCR since 1995. He had worked as a correctional officer at CCWF from September 2010 through August 2022, when he retired from service due to the investigation.
Warden Mike Pallares had also been accused of misconduct at the time he was investigating Rodriguez in two separate lawsuits filed in Madera County Superior Court by female prison workers. One suit filed in September 2021 by an administrative worker alleged that Pallares “began demanding sex” from her after she complained of harassment by other staff, and that Pallares coerced her into having sex with him while they were both at work. A second suit filed in August 2021 by a former female warden accused Pallares of routine sexual harassment after she took control of the prison in 2017. Pallares has also been accused of inappropriate sexual conduct by at least one current female inmate. He stepped down as Acting Warden of CCWF on January 23, 2023.
Levy Konigsberg is actively reviewing claims from former CCWF inmates who were sexually abused by Gregory Rodriguez or other officers and prison staff. Contact us to speak with a lawyer.
Some of the most notable evidence supporting claims of CCWF sexual abuse include:
2016 Prison Law Office Report
In August 2016, a report from the non-profit public interest firm Prison Law Office chronicled many of the problems present at CCWF. This includes claims that CCWF management:
- Cultivated a culture that permits, condones, and covers up abuse.
- Enabled guards and staff to retaliate against inmates seeking assistance; and
- Prevented inmates from seeking help from entities outside the institution.
These serious claims were supported by interviews conducted with over 130 female inmates housed at CCWF. According to Prison Law Office, the findings supported its stance that a “pervasive indifference toward prisoners” existed within the prison. Its main findings included:
- CCWF staff engaged in physical and sexual abuse, harassment, and threatening of inmates.
- CCWF Staff perpetuated a culture of bigotry, harassment, and misogyny, routinely addressing female inmates “not by their names, but as ‘bitches,’ ‘hoes,’ or ‘whores,’ or with racial epithets.”
- CCWF inmates routinely faced retaliation for using the appeals process to file complaints, request assistance, or ask for protection.
- CCWF’s processes routinely failed to identify abuse and retaliation, with inmates reporting that investigations conducted by the prison’s Investigative Services Unit (ISU) were inadequate or closed after inmates were pressured to recant allegations against staff.
The report noted that while many women – especially those incarcerated in prisons and those who have been abused in the past – normalize or are resigned to the type of misogyny, retaliation, and abuse at CCWF, the presence of these issues in a state prison is unacceptable and unlawful, as California law holds that incarcerated individuals cannot consent to any form of sexual contact with guards and staff.
Despite this law, the report noted many allegations of abusive and harassing behavior by CCWF prison staff. Some of the report’s findings included:
- Accounts of staff having sexual relations with inmates.
- Inmates being rewarded with contraband (i.e. cigarettes, make-up, jewelry, cell phones, alcohol, and drugs) or special privileges (i.e. more out-of-cell time and phone calls) for engaging in sexual activity with staff.
- Inappropriately intrusive body searches and urinalysis examinations.
The Prison Law Office concluded its report with several recommendations, including steps for leadership to implement a gender responsive culture change, hire more female staff, ensure complete and thorough internal investigations, and conduct independent investigations of allegations made in the report.
1999 LA Times Investigative Report
A journalistic investigation published in the Los Angeles Times in October 1999 focused on many of the same human rights issues that would later be noted in Prison Law Office’s 2016 report.
These include poor quality medical care and allegations of guards and medical staff sexually assaulting inmates at both CCWF and the nearby Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), which was made into an all-male facility in 2013. Some of the LA Times’ findings included:
- Allegations from a former inmate who claimed her child was fathered behind bars by a prison staff member.
- Allegations from inmates who claimed that they routinely fended off sexual advances from prison guards and work crew supervisors.
- A 1996 deposition in which a male nurse assigned with caring for seriously and terminally ill inmates admitted to sexually abusing three patients.
Like the Prison Law Office report that would follow nearly a decade later, the LA Times article unearthed evidence of systemic problems with how California women’s prisons handled sexual abuse and responded to complaints. It noted a 1997 report from the NY-based Human Rights Watch, which found that female inmates were frequently sexually abused in California prisons and that procedures used to “report and investigate abuse were flawed and biased in favor of correctional staff.”
Sex Abuse Survivors Can Now Seek Justice
Levy Konigsberg is representing a growing number of former female inmates who were sexually abused at jails and prisons across the country thanks to groundbreaking laws being passed in states like New York and California.
New laws in California may open new legal pathways for survivors with claims that were previously barred by the statute of limitations.
As a firm that focuses a large part of our practice to litigating claims of sexual abuse, including sexual abuse in California women’s prisons and sex abuse in New York prisons, Levy Konigsberg is available to evaluate your eligibility to file a claim. Given the need to carefully evaluate eligibility and the limited time for filing, we encourage survivors to reach out to our firm as soon as possible.
Call For a FREE Consultation: (800) 315-3806
If you have questions about filing a civil lawsuit over sexual abuse during your time at the Central California Women’s Facility, Levy Konigsberg is here to help.
Our attorneys have decades of experience litigating high-stakes sex abuse claims for clients across the country. We know these are tough and emotionally turbulent cases and are committed to providing the caring representation victims need to pursue the financial recovery they deserve.
To speak with a lawyer during a FREE and confidential consultation, call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online.