A HORROR STORY- The Irwin County Detention Center

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky and outdoor, text that says 'other For Peate r VES MATT LAND OFTHE FREE BELIEVE WOMEN! STOP THE ABUSE! SHUT DOWN kwnNow! GEORGIA DETENTION WATCH'
photo by Karen Peterson

The Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) made national news with the report that immigrant women were being sterilized without their knowledge or consent.   But that is just the tip of the iceberg of human right violations and abuse of detained immigrants  at ICDC and other U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers throughout the country.  

To begin with, immigrants are not criminals, although a few criminals may be among them. They are mostly peasant farmers fleeing climate change, drug cartels, and corrupt governments in Central America. In their home country, they were persecuted, victims of extortion and death threats from drug gangs, and suffer starvation from crop failure due to climate change. This is why they migrate to find a better life for their family in America, the “land of the free” or so they thought. 

The ICDC is an ICE facility located in Ocilla, Georgia. What happens at ICDC is not unlike many other ICE for-profit detention centers that treat immigrants less than human and puts them in cages. 


Project South in Atlanta, Georgia, has documented many cases of abuse by ICDC toward detained immigrants.  They sent a 27-page complaint to David Paulk, Warden at ICDC; Thomas Giles, Acting Director of Atlanta ICE Field Office; Joseph Cuffari, Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and Cameron Quinn, Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties DHS in DC.    

The majority of this article is taken from Project South’s complaint report and it is a horror story of abuse that must stop.   You can find the full complaint here: https://projectsouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/OIG-ICDC-Complaint-1.pdf 

Ms. Dawn Wooten, a nurse at ICDC turned whistleblower also reported to Project South and the Government Accountability Project about human right violations at ICDC that include hysterectomies performed on multiple women without informed consent. 

Wooten reported that women at ICDC were sent to a gynecologist outside the facility and almost everyone Dr. Amin saw had a hysterectomy wheither they needed one or wanted one.  They call him “the uteruses collector.” 

“I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp.  It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies,” one detainee told Project South.

Wooten witnessed ICDC nurses shredding medical request forms from the detainees and then fabricate their medical records without seeing the individual requesting medical help. It takes days or weeks for medical to respond and sometimes they never respond to requests for sick calls and detainees just give up. 

Wooten reported that ICDC systematic undercounted and underreported COVID cases.  ICDC required employees who have COVID symptoms or have a positive COVID test to continue working, and employees were threatened if they refused to work.  

“We can work symptomatic and work positively as long as we have a mask on,” stated the Human Services Administrator nurse at ICDC. 

The complaint charges ICDC with a lack of medical care, unsafe work practices, the absence of adequate protection against COVID-19 for immigrants and employees,  refusal to test immigrants for COVID who were exposed to the virus, and hides information about who has tested positive for COVID.  

In addition, ICDC disregards public health guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) by maintaining unsanitary conditions.

Another LaSalle ICE facility, Richwood Correctional Center, in Monroe, Louisianne was reported for some of the same abuses.  These abuses may be systemic at all ICE Detention Center.

For years detained immigrants at ICDC have reported human rights abuses including lack of medical and mental health care, due process violations, unsanitary living conditions, not allowed to see a medical professional despite submitting multiple sick call requests, not receiving life dependent medication consistently, and not receiving proper medical care once they see a medical professional.

“The medical unit is not helpful, even if you are dying.  For everything, including serious illness, they just hand out ibuprofen,” a detained immigrant told Project South.

“Everything is dirty, one shower for over fifty people, one bathroom for all of us, only God is taking care of us here,”  a detained immigrant told Project South.

Another immigrant said,” It’s been hell, it’s so nasty, there is mold, the food is often spoiled and cockroaches get in the food.”

Immigrants are crowed  into a dorm-like rooms where they all breathe the same air after someone coughs or sneezes, they share everything together because there is no way to social distance, and they don’t have proper personal protection equipment (PPE).  They have no way of protecting themselves from COVID, and they are afraid of dying at ICDC.

New people are transferred into ICDC  who have symptoms of COVID and others are transferred out who have symptoms of COVID.  One COVID positive individual was transferred to Mexico and another to Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.  If detainees complain or refuse to share a room with a new transfer who has symptoms of COVID they are put in solitary confinement for refusing orders.

Some officers will not go into certain pods due to the risk of catching COVID and the facility is short-staffed due to COVID  

Several men went on hunger strikes to either be released or receive better protections against COVID and to be tested.  In response to the hunger strike, ICDC cruelly shut off their water source.   One desperate immigrant drank out of the toilet.  

“After they went on hunger strike, there was no change.  There was nothing at all – so people gave up,” immigrants told Project South.  

Employees who speak out against violations at ICDC are reprimanded and retaliated against for doing what’s right.  One captain was fired for following the CDC and the Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS) rules strictly.


Image may contain: car and outdoor, text that says 'IMMIGRANTS MAKE AMERICA GREAT'
photo by Jan Rivers

A caravan left Atlanta Saturday morning with 15 people going to ICDC.  In Ocilla, Georgia they joined other advocates from across Georgia and Florida who were concerned about the abuse of immigrants at ICDC. 

“From our staging area, we caravaned and marched to ICDC where we saw six white supremacists with Trump flags and guns standing next to troopers and the sheriff.  Law enforcement had cars parked in front of the ICDC to block the entrance. There was a heavy law enforcement presence of about 30 men who monitored the event,”  Jan Rivers, organizer of the Atlanta caravan and a concerned citizen, told Streets of Atlanta.

 The 100 plus marchers had four “Wall of Veterans” with guns for security. 

At ICDC they chanted “The People United Will Never Be Defeated” and “Abolish ICE” in Spanish and English, and demanded the facility be shut down.  Cars circled ICDC honking so detainees inside could hear and see the support.   After about 20 minutes they walking back to the staging area to hear speakers.   Everyone wore masks and no one was arrested. 



Image may contain: sky, tree, car, cloud and outdoor
photo from SOMOS South Georgia Facebook

The guest speakers included Herbert Mallqui Aragon, Elliot Lepe Cholico, Triana Arnold James, Nselaa Ward, and local community members Alma Young, and Britteny Roberts. 

Below are highlights from those speakers, but for more information go to SOMOS South Georgia Facebook and watch videos of the protest to shut down ICDC.

Herbert Mallqui Aragon from Discipulos de Cristo Getsemani Church in Lowndes County gave a powerful speech demanding that the abuses must stop and reminded ICDC that this country was built by immigrants. 

 Elliot Lepe Cholico, the son of undocumented immigrants, said “We must understand the deeply incestuous relationship between lawmakers and private corporations that donate to those lawmakers who enable those corporations to profit from our suffering.”  

 Alma Young, a local educator, and activist tells the story of a 19-year-old woman inside ICDC.  The teenager said there were “maggots in her food, scalding hot showers that caused her hair to fall out, abusive treatment from the guards, and abhorrent medical care.”  

 “We cannot wait. The women in the Irwin County Detention Center cannot wait. The women in detention centers across the country cannot wait. We need action now,” Young said.

“Immigrants built this country.  Now, I have a question for those people at the detention center, ‘How can you be illegal on stolen ground,” Triana Arnold James, President, Georgia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), asked.

A local woman, Brittany Roberts, lost her baby when Dr. Amin was her doctor.  “This man is evil.  He hurts women.  He causes them unnecessary pain and suffering.  He takes away their family members and he takes away their ability to have children.  He can’t continue to be who these women see every day for help,” Roberts said and pointed to ICDC.

“We need to go out and vote and stay here and march and put pressure on our officials, we need to do it all,” Nselaa Ward, an organizer for the Florida Immigrant Coalition said.

Community groups are calling for the shut down of the ICE detention center and demanding the county invest in programs and resources that support the town’s collective well-being.  

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, grass and outdoor
photo from SOMOS South Georgia Facebook

Dr. Mahendrakumar Amin is not a board-certified OB-GYN and you can submit a complaint with the Georgia Medical Board regarding his illegal sterilization of women without their consent on the link below. 

by Gloria Tatum

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