The immigrants and staff are both suffering because of the poor safety standards amid the pandemic.
A complaint by a whistleblower revealed that a detention center was performing a shocking number of hysterectomies on immigrant women, according to Vice News.
Filed on behalf of several detained immigrants and a nurse identified as Dawn Wooten, it detailed accounts of “jarring medical neglect” at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia. The center run by a private prison company called LaSalle South Corrections houses people incarcerated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The complaint also stated that the management failed to keep detainees and employees of the center safe from the pandemic.
In an interview with Project South, a Georgia based nonprofit, several women disclosed the events that took place behind the walls of the detention facility. A woman divulged that she met about five women who went through hysterectomies after they were detained between October and December 2019. She also said that all these women were sent to a common gynecologist outside the center.
“When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with their bodies,” said the woman, according to Vice News.
Wooten, a full-time employee at the facility, also revealed other distressing and horrific details. She stated that sometimes these women were not properly anesthetized before undergoing the procedure. On one such occasion, a woman heard the doctor say he had operated out the wrong ovary. Later, because of the doctor’s negligence, the woman had to get the other ovary removed as well.
Though she worked at the facility, the number of hysterectomies performed at the facility blew her mind. “We’ve questioned among ourselves, like, goodness, he’s taking everybody’s stuff out. That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector. I know that’s ugly. Is he collecting these things or something? Everybody he sees, he’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taken their tubes out. What in the world,” said the nurse. The nurse further stated many of these women were unaware of why they had to undergo a hysterectomy. Some were just given multiple explanations.
In addition to these accusations, the facility also broke the coronavirus guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and the advice of Irwin’s own medical director. Despite 41 immigrants being tested positive and many showing symptoms of the virus, the facility continued to transfer immigrants in and out of the center.
Besides, the complaint alleged that the facility lacked protective equipment for immigrants and employees against the virus. “There is no way to protect [against COVID-19] at all here in the facility. We share everything together. There is no way at all we can feel protected here in the facility,” said one immigrant, according to Vice News. Even the medical and quarantine unit in one part of the facility was dirty.
Other detainees also shared that they were not provided with adequate cleaning chemicals and equipment. One woman was forced to clean her cell with shampoo and another used soaps to do the same. The woman stated the conditions in the center was so bad that many tried to commit suicide. According to the complaint, some men at the facility went on a hunger strike, demanding protective gear or to be released.
To make matters worse, employees with coronavirus symptoms were expected to work until their test results came back. Wooton further stated that the management was reluctant to inform officers about detained immigrants who are tested positive.
The complaint stated, “…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.”
The facility and the ICE have not responded to the news.