Sign the Petition: Shut Down the Irwin County Detention Center!

Irwin County Commissioners; Donald Washington, Director, U.S. Marshals Service; Tony A. Pham, Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Illustration: Dilek Baykara for The Intercept

Last week, Dawn Wooten, a courageous Black woman, nurse, and protected whistleblower represented by Project South and the Government Accountability Project, brought forward shocking revelations of systemic abuse of immigrants detained at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia, as well as hazardous working conditions for staff. Ms. Wooten’s accounts corroborate the horrid descriptions of conditions that detained women and men at ICDC have been voicing for years.

Unnecessary gynecological procedures without informed consent, deliberate medical neglect, lack of COVID-19 testing and reporting, the shredding of medical request forms, fabrication of medical records, and more are detailed in a 27-page complaint filed by Georgia advocacy groups based on what Ms. Wooten witnessed and direct accounts from people detained at ICDC. These accounts of abuse are unconscionable and require immediate attention.  

We demand that Irwin County officials, US Marshals Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immediately terminate their intergovernmental agreement, including the contract with LaSalle Corrections, and abstain from entering into any new agreements. Irwin County Detention Center must be shut down NOW!

There is a well-documented record of abuse and neglect at ICDC. For years, advocates in Georgia have been raising red flags about the human rights violations occurring inside the facility. In their 2017 report, Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Georgia Immigrant Detention Centers, Project South and the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic found evidence of sexual abuse, inadequate medical care, lack of prenatal care for pregnant women, a lack of clean drinking water, and rampant use of solitary confinement, a practice internationally recognized as torture, at the facility. Furthermore, ICE’s own 2017 Office of Detention Oversight Compliance Inspection found that the overall number of deficiencies at ICDC grew from 15 in FY 2013 to 26 in FY 2017 including, but not limited to, inconsistent intake screenings, incomplete documentation of medical information, disorganized and unfiled medical records, and administration of psychotropic medications without signed consent.

We know that the abuses happening at ICDC are not isolated incidents, but rather part of a pattern of medical neglect and abuse at immigration detention centers across the country. Indeed, the alarming death toll in ICE custody, 19 people in this fiscal year alone, underscores that the immigration enforcement system is plagued by egregious conditions, a lack of accountability, and a culture of violence that results in system-wide abuses, including death. Moreover, time after time, medical standards developed and implemented by ICE, itself, have proven inadequate. Amidst the current COVID-19 global pandemic, conditions have only worsened. Over 5,000 people have contracted COVID-19 while in ICE custody. This is a direct result of ICE’s irresponsible actions and refusal to free those they incarcerate, even as thousands of medical professionals and advocates have warned that detention centers are a hotbed for infection, and despite court orders to release people.

This moment, as many others, exposes the arbitrary and inhumane nature of the U.S. detention system and underscores the need to shut down ICDC and release people from immigration detention. We know that no one, regardless of their immigration status, is safe at the Irwin County Detention Center. People must be freed from immigration detention, jails, and prisons.

Add your name today.

To: Irwin County Commissioners; Donald Washington, Director, U.S. Marshals Service; Tony A. Pham, Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
From: [Your Name]

We call on you to do your job to avoid further abuse. Terminate the intergovernmental agreement, including the contract with LaSalle Corrections, and shut down the Irwin County Detention Center NOW!

Thomas P. Giles, Acting Field Office Director in Atlanta, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Michael Carvajal, Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons