/  09.16.2020

A nurse at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Irwin County, Georgia has made serious allegations about unsafe conditions and medical practices being used on detainees at the facility.

Nurse Dawn Wooten filed an official complaint on Monday (Sept. 14), which claimed the facility had performed an alarming number of hysterectomies — a procedure that removes the uterus — on women without their consent; underreported positive COVID-19 tests; failed to create a sanitary environment and more.

“I had several detained women on numerous occasions that would come to me and say, ‘Ms. Wooten, I had a hysterectomy. Why?’” Wooten told MSNBC after filing the complaint. “I had no answers as to why they had those procedures.” 

Besides mass hysterectomy procedures, Wooten also claimed that she was demoted after pushing staff to administer more COVID-19 tests. Wooten — who suffers from sickle cell anemia — was unable to even limit her own interactions with COVID-19-positive patients.

“When I started talking about the unfairness and injustice… I was written up,” she told The Intercept, alleging that staff reused old masks, failed to test detainees and did not properly sanitize the center. “It’s dog-eat-dog in there, at the expense of the detainees.”

Wooten’s claims of non-consented hysterectomies and abysmal COVID-19 response efforts have prompted several politicians to call for a full investigation into the ICE center. In a statement, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded the Department of Homeland Security look into Wooten’s allegations.

“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint – including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women – are a staggering abuse of human rights,” she said. “The DHS Inspector General must immediately investigate the allegations detailed in this complaint.”

With support from non-profit Project South, Wooten addressed her complaint to the DHS Inspector General and the department’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties officers.

Priyanka Bhatt — a lawyer with Project South — told The Intercept, “Ms. Wooten’s whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years — gross disregard for health and safety standards, lack of medical care and unsanitary living conditions.”

See a snippet from Wooten’s MSNBC interview below.


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