[Pnews] Staggering Number of Hysterectomies Happening at ICE Facility, Whistleblower Says

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 15 10:11:13 EDT 2020


  Staggering Number of Hysterectomies Happening at ICE Facility,
  Whistleblower Says

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 
inside it.

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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