A whistleblower complaint filed this week with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General alleges that high rates of hysterectomies — sometimes without what the complaint called “proper informed consent” — have been performed on women detained in a privately owned immigration jail in Georgia.
The complaint, filed by the human rights group Project South, quoted a detainee from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Irwin County Detention Center saying that five women who had the procedure between October and December 2019 had told her that they “reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.” Multiple women claimed that they did not have access to proper interpreters and that medical staff often did not speak Spanish.
The accounts in Project South’s complaint — which included that of the whistleblower Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse at the facility — were consistent with accounts given in separate interviews conducted by The Intercept with three other current detainees at the facility, eight advocates for detainees at the prison, and a former Irwin employee, all of whom requested anonymity for fear of reprisals against themselves and their clients.
“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody,” Wooten, who is being represented as a whistleblower by Project South and the Government Accountability Project, explained 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.”
If this story isn't bogus, there are three critical factors in this story: 1) the treatment of detainees; 2) the treatment of women; 3) the venue of the treatment.
The first two are horrific and most obvious. Less so is that these women are being detained at a private facility, which is a particularly noxious means to jail human beings. Incarceration should not be a profit-making enterprise.
Fortunately, there is at least a little hope offered in the "Protecting Communities By Reforming Our Criminal Justice System" portion of the Biden-Sanders task force recommendations. in which (page 10, here) we read
Private profit should not motivate the provision of vital public services, including in the criminal justice system. Democrats support ending the use of private prisons and private detention centers, and will take steps to eliminate profiteering from diversion programs, commercial bail, electronic monitoring, prison commissaries, and reentry and treatment programs.
The facility in Georgia is not operated by those two giants, but rather by LaSalle Corrections. There is no record of Vice-President Biden opposing President Obama's decision to open two "family detention centers," from which immigrants were deported, which are operated by GEO and CoreCivic.
However, those two companies have donated heavily to politicians, especially of the Republican variety, in the last two election cycles. By contrast, Joe Biden already has signaled that as President he will be unsympathetic to the private prison industry.
The lure of campaign donations may be too much for a President Biden to resist. Yet, we can expect pressure from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to phase out arrangements with the industry. About Joe Biden, we cannot be sure.
But about Donald Trump, we can be sure because of his ideology, record, and corrupt dedication to squeezing money out of anyone and everyone. There would be more people immorally and illegally detained under abysmal conditions in private detention facilities. And that is no way, even without forced hysterectomies, to run either a criminal justice system or an immigration system.
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