Dawn Wooten, a nurse at Irwin County Detention, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in the state of Georgia, has filed a complaint revealing atrocities that she describes taking place against detained immigrants in her place of employment. In an interview with the Intercept, Wooten alleges that Irwin employed a minimal testing protocol for the coronavirus, putting both staff and detainees at risk. However, another, perhaps more alarming, allegation didn’t make it into the Intercept’s report: Wooten says the facility performed a number of hysterectomies on detained immigrant women, often performing the procedures carelessly and without consent.
These details, according to Wooten, are part of a larger pattern of poor treatment that took place at Irwin and was overlooked by its parent company, Lasalle Corrections.
In a complaint sent to the Department of Homeland Security by Project South, Wooten says that “everybody” that she sent to a specific gynecologist, whose name was not listed in the complaint, ended up with their uterus removed. She recounts an incident where this doctor removed the right ovary from a patient who had a cyst on her left ovary; eventually, the woman had to return to have her only remaining ovary removed. Wooten, along with several detained women, told Project South that they were not always made aware when a hysterectomy would be performed, or what the procedure entailed before it took place. One woman said, when she asked what procedure the gynecologist was going to perform, she was given three different answers:
She was originally told by the doctor that she had an ovarian cyst and was going to have a small twenty-minute procedure done drilling three small holes in her stomach to drain the cyst. The officer who was transporting her to the hospital told her that she was receiving a hysterectomy to have her womb removed. When the hospital refused to operate on her because her COVID-19 test came back positive for antibodies, she was transferred back to ICDC where the ICDC nurse said that the procedure she was going to have done entailed dilating her vagina and scraping tissue off.
Wooten tells the Intercept that she repeatedly complained about the lack of testing for covid-19 at the facility, as well as the lack of protective equipment for nurses. After repeated complaints, Wooten was demoted, two events she believes are linked. Wooten asserts that although Irwin County Detention only reported 31 cases of covid amongst detainees, it’s more likely that over 50 people were infected, not including members of the staff. When a staff member died from virus-related complications, Wooten says the facility blamed the infection and subsequential death on the staffer attending a family event.