A retired correctional officer has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting at least 13 inmates at California’s largest women’s prison.
Gregory Rodriguez, 54, who worked at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, faces 96 counts, including 39 individual sexual assaults, officials said.
He was booked into the Madera County Jail on $7.8 million bail following his arrest by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Office of Internal Affairs. If convicted, he could face over 300 years in prison. The facility is about 160 miles southeast of San Francisco.
While some allegations are from as far back as 2014, most occurred within the last two years, authorities said.
“The allegations are in no way a reflection on the vast majority of correctional officers who act professionally and do their best to make sure prisoners serve their time while remaining safe,” the Madera County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release. “It is our hope that the removal and arrest of this defendant encourages them to continue in their honorable profession upholding the law every day.”
Prosecutors said they are investigating whether Rodriguez may be responsible for more crimes. It was not clear if he had retained an attorney. An email to the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the union representing guards, was not immediately returned.
In a news release in December, the CDCR said it had referred an internal investigation to the DA.
The CDCR said it immediately began investigating Rodriguez after discovering information in July that suggested sexual misconduct was occurring between Rodriguez and incarcerated women at CCWF.
“The department resolutely condemns any staff member, especially a peace officer, who violates their oath and shatters the trust of the public,” CDCR Secretary Jeff Macomber said then. “We are continuing this investigation to ensure we are rooting out any employee who does not obey the law and to seek out other victims.”
The agency identified more than 22 potential victims.
“Rodriguez shamefully hid behind his badge and used it to victimize a vulnerable population,” CCWF Warden Mike Pallares said then. “That is one of the most abhorrent acts one can commit in a peace officer position.
“We look forward to him being held accountable to the furthest extent of the law.”
Officials said Rodriguez began his career with CDCR as a cadet at the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center on July 22, 1995. He graduated on Sept. 19, 1995, and reported to Calipatria State Prison as a correctional officer on Sept. 22, 1995.
On Nov. 11, 1997, Rodriguez transferred to California State Prison, Corcoran, as a correctional officer and transferred to CCWF on Sept. 20, 2010. Rodriguez retired from state service effective Aug. 25, 2022, after being approached by internal affairs investigators, authorities said.
CCWF is the largest female institution in the state and currently houses about 2,200 inmates and employs about 1,250 staff.
The Sacramento Bee reported that the suspect is named in two lawsuits by former inmates alleging he sexually assaulted them and that two other lawsuits by two other inmates are expected to be filed soon.
Rocklin attorney Robert Chalfant, who represents those four inmates, applauded the arrest.
“This is a good first step toward achieving some level of justice for my clients,” Chalfant said, the paper reported. “They’re very excited to hear that he’s being prosecuted for the crimes he committed.”
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