Originally Published in The Trio
Biba Adams - September 16, 2020
Dawn Wooten, who was a licensed practical nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center, has prompted calls for a federal investigation into her claims that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center where she worked was performing mass hysterectomies.
Wooten, with the support of attorneys from Project South, filed the complaint on Sept. 14 addressed to the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in the department.
The acting director of Atlanta’s ICE field office and the warden of the detention center are also named in the complaint.
Since being named in the complaint, Wooten has spoken out about the conditions that she witnessed.
“I had several detained women on numerous occasions that would come to me and say, ‘Ms. Wooten, I had a hysterectomy. Why?’” she said on MSNBC. “I had no answers as to why they had those procedures.”
Wooten’s complaint also detailed the way that the coronavirus pandemic was being addressed inside the Georgia-based facility.
She told the The Intercept that the center was failing to test detainees, reusing old masks and performing negligent sanitation. Her complaints, she said, led to her demotion from a full-time employee to an on-call nurse.
“When I started talking about the unfairness and injustice,” pressuring staff to conduct more COVID-19 tests, “I was written up,” Wooten said. “It’s dog-eat-dog in there, at the expense of the detainees.”
Wooten, who has sickle cell anemia, fought to keep from working with detainees who had tested positive. Yet, unknowingly, she still did.
Priyanka Bhatt, a staff attorney 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.”
“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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “The DHS Inspector General must immediately investigate the allegations detailed in this complaint.”