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Complaint Blasts Detention Center COVID Response

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September 16, 2020 -- A private prison company is accused of failing to protect detainees and employees at a Georgia detention center from the coronavirus and performing forced hysterectomies on female detainees.

A complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security inspector general says Louisiana-based LaSalle Corrections did not provide personal protective equipment to staff and did not accurately report the number of COVID-19 cases at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, GA.

The complaint is largely based on information from whistleblower Dawn Wooten, LPN, who worked at the center. A group of watchdog organizations, including Project South and Georgia Detention Watch, filed the complaint on Monday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that LaSalle officials did not respond to requests for comments. The paper says the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency released a statement saying only that it is “firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody.”

ICE told CBS News that, “"in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve," the agency said in a statement.

The groups claim that LaSalle did not test detained immigrants for COVID even when they were exposed to the virus and showing symptoms, and that the company destroyed detainee medical records and fabricated other records. One detainee reported not receiving breast cancer medication for weeks.

Detained immigrants, the complaint says, “have reported not being able to see a medical professional for several weeks despite submitting multiple sick call requests, not receiving life-dependent medication consistently and not receiving proper medical care once they are able to see a medical professional.”

Beyond concerns about the coronavirus, doctors at the facility performed an alarming number of hysterectomies on female detainees, Wooten says in the complaint.

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy—just about everybody. He’s even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady [detained immigrant woman],” Wooten says in the complaint. The name of the doctor was not included in the complaint.

“I’ve had several inmates tell me that they’ve been to see the doctor and they’ve had hysterectomies and they don’t know why they went or why they’re going,” she says.

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 16, 2020

Sources

CBS News, “Questionable hysterectomies and shoddy COVID care alleged at Georgia immigrant detention center”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Whistleblower blasts Georgia immigration detention center’s COVID-19 response”

Project South: “Lack of Medical Care, Unsafe Work Practices, and Absence of Adequate Protection Against COVID-19 for Detained Immigrants and Employees Alike at the Irwin County Detention Center”

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