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WASHINGTON, September 17, 2020 – Today, Government Accountability Project and Project South sent a letter to Congress outlining the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General complaint from client and whistleblower, Ms. Dawn Wooten, LPN, regarding the egregious health practices at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia.

Her allegations encompass a variety of health and safety violations, including but not limited to: failing to isolate detained immigrants who had confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, performing hysterectomies and other procedures  without informed consent, refusing to test symptomatic detained immigrants for COVID-19, and failing to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical and correctional staff who have close and prolonged contact with detained immigrants with confirmed cases of COVID-19. This is not to mention the overall systematic undercounting and underreporting of COVID-19 cases at ICDC made possible by fabrication of medical records.

Government Accountability Project Staff Attorney and counsel for Ms. Wooten, John Whitty, commented:

“The blatant disregard for the health and safety of both detainees and ICE employees at Irwin County Detention Center is appalling. Government Accountability Project greatly values the courage of Dawn Wooten to blow the whistle, for without her testimony these grievances would continue indefinitely. We ask Congress to recognize this failure on the part of ICE detention to adequately care for its detainees and employees and to act so that these violations do not continue to threaten the health of those within ICE detention.”

Project South Legal & Advocacy Director and counsel for Ms. Wooten, Azadeh Shahshahani, commented:

We have documented conditions at Irwin for many years. The treatment of immigrants at this prison has always been horrid. These new shocking revelations further highlight the extent of the egregious abuses at the facility. The fact that Black and brown immigrant women are held in an extremely vulnerable position at this prison where they have no control over their bodies and no say about what it is done to them is sickening. Irwin should be shut down immediately and people should be freed. The United States Government as well as the private prison corporation running this prison should be held accountable.”

LINK TO LETTER: https://whistleblower.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/ICE-ICDC-Whistleblower-Disclosure-to-Congress-091720-1.pdf

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. www.whistleblower.org

Project South is a Southern-based leadership development organization that creates spaces for movement building. We work with communities pushed forward by the struggle– to strengthen leadership and to provide popular political and economic education for personal and social transformation. We build relationships with organizations and networks across the US and global South to inform our local work and to engage in bottom-up movement building for social and economic justice. www.projectsouth.org