'experimental concentration camp'
September 15, 2020

Several legal advocacy groups filed a whistleblower complaint Monday alleging that an unusually large number of hysterectomies are being performed on detained migrant women at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia, run by the private prison firm LaSalle South Corrections to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees. A nurse who worked full-time at the facility until July and several migrant women interviewed by one nonprofit, Project South, said the women did not know why they were being sterilized.

"When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp," said one detainee who had spoken with five women given hysterectomies — removal of all or part of the uterus — between October and December 2019. "It was like they're experimenting with their bodies."

The nurse, Dawn Wooten, said female detainees at ICDC are often sent to one outside gynecologist in particular. "Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody," Wooten said. "Everybody's uterus cannot be that bad," she added. "We've questioned among ourselves like goodness he's taking everybody's stuff out. ... That's his specialty, he's the uterus collector. I know that's ugly ... is he collecting these things or something? ... Everybody he sees, he's taking all their uteruses out or he's taken their tubes out. What in the world."

The complaint, filed with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General, also details allegations of filthy conditions in cells, a critical shortage of personal protective equipment, and secrecy surrounding COVID-19. Wooten says there's "a silent pandemic" at ICDC.

LaSalle Corrections told The Intercept it "is firmly committed to the health and welfare of those in our care" and "deeply committed to delivering high-quality, culturally responsive services in safe and humane environments." ICE said it does not comment on matters before the Inspector General's office but "in general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve." Peter Weber

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