[Pnews] Staggering Number of Hysterectomies Happening at ICE Facility, Whistleblower Says
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 15 10:11:13 EDT 2020
Staggering Number of Hysterectomies Happening at ICE Facility,
September 14, 2020
A whistleblower complaint filed Monday by several legal advocacy groups
accuses a detention center of performing a staggering number of
hysterectomies on immigrant women, as well as failing to follow
procedures meant to keep both detainees and employees safe from the
The complaint, filed on behalf of several detained immigrants and a
nurse named Dawn Wooten, details several accounts of recent “jarring
medical neglect” at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla,
Georgia, which is run by the private prison company LaSalle South
Corrections and houses people incarcerated by Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE). In interviews with Project South, a Georgia
nonprofit, multiple women said that hysterectomies were stunningly
frequent among immigrants detained at the facility.
“When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was
like an experimental concentration camp,” said one woman, who said she’d
met five women who’d had hysterectomies after being detained between
October and December 2019. The woman said that immigrants at Irwin are
often sent to see one particular gynecologist outside of the facility.
“It was like they’re experimenting with their bodies.”
In one case, Wooten said, a woman who ended up with a hysterectomy was
not properly anesthetized and overhead the doctor say that he’d taken
out the wrong ovary. That woman had to go back and get her other ovary
removed as well, Wooten said.
“We’ve questioned among ourselves, like, goodness, he’s taking
everybody’s stuff out,” said Wooten, who was a full-time employee at
Irwin until July. “That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector. I
know that’s ugly.”
“Is he collecting these things or something,” she continued. “Everybody
he sees, he’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taken their tubes
out. What in the world.”
Wooten also said she’d talked to several detained immigrants who’d had
hysterectomies but didn’t know why. One detained immigrant told Project
South that, ahead of the scheduled procedure, she was given multiple
different explanations about what would happen and why it was necessary.
While ICE reported in August that 41 immigrants at Irwin have tested
positive for COVID-19, Wooten believes that the true number may be much
higher, according to the complaint. Women housed in multiple units in
the facility allegedly exhibited COVID-19 symptoms, but were not tested
for the virus for weeks. Immigrants have also allegedly continued to be
transferred in and out of the facility, against guidelines by the
Centers for Disease Control and the advice of Irwin’s own medical director.
The complaint also alleges that both the detained immigrants and
staffers at Irwin lacked the personal protective equipment they need to
stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic: People in both groups have
only received one mask each since the pandemic broke out. It is also
impossible to socially distance within the facility, according to the
“There is no way to protect [against COVID-19] at all here in the
facility,” one immigrant said. “We share everything together. There is
no way at all we can feel protected here in the facility.
Detained immigrants also said that the medical and quarantine unit in
one part of the Irwin facility were filthy. One woman said she had to
clean her cell using shampoo because staffers wouldn’t give her any
cleaning chemicals; she recalled seeing another woman use her socks to
do the same.
“If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I think I would have gone insane and
just break down and probably gone as far as hurting myself,” the woman
said. “There are a lot of people here who end up in medical trying to
kill themselves because of how crazy it is.”
Some men at the facility even went on hunger strike, demanding to be
released or to have better protections against the coronavirus,
according to the complaint. But nothing changed.
Meanwhile, employees are also expected to work even if they have
COVID-19 symptoms and are awaiting their test results, Wooten said. And
management at the facility also allegedly refuses to tell officers if
any detained immigrants have tested positive for COVID-19, which could
heighten their risk of contracting the virus.
“Ms. Wooten explained that she believes ICDC is hiding information about
COVID-19 in order to keep things quiet,” the complaint alleged. “She
stated that everyone in the facility is scared at this point, so
management does not want to tell officers and detained immigrants the
truth because they are afraid of an uproar. Instead, the secrecy has
created a ‘silent pandemic’ where even if officers get COVID-19 from the
facility, the officers won’t be able to blame ICDC because no one knows
how prevalent COVID-19 is inside ICDC due to not testing detained
immigrants and not sharing who has the virus.”
Besides Project South, the advocacy groups Georgia Detention Watch,
Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant
Support Network helped file the complaint with the Department of
Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General. Law and Crime
published the complaint
after the Intercept covered some of the allegations
LaSalle Corrections didn’t immediately respond to a VICE News request
for comment. In the past, the Irwin County Detention Center has
repeatedly been found to be in compliance with ICE’s detention standards.
In a statement, ICE said it does not comment on matters handled by the
Office of the Inspector General.
“ICE takes all allegations seriously and defers to the OIG regarding any
potential investigation and/or results,” the agency said. “That said, in
general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any
fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate
skepticism they deserve.”
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