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Whistleblower Nurse Accuses Georgia ICE Facility of Allowing Medical Neglect and Performing Mass Hysterectomies

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  • A former nurse at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Georgia has made a number of startling allegations in a federal complaint filed Monday to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
  • Most notably, the whistleblower accused the facility’s doctors of performing mass hysterectomies on female detainees. 
  • Her complaint also alleges, among other things, that facility officials underreported COVID-19 cases, denied symptomatic detainees’ requests for coronavirus tests, and even placed people who had tested positive back into the general population.
  • ICE has said the complaint should be treated with “appropriate skepticism” because its allegations are unproven and “made without any fact-checkable specifics.”

Whistleblower Complains of Mass Hysterectomies

A whistleblower has accused a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Georgia of a number of inhumane and unethical practices, including performing mass hysterectomies on female detainees. 

The allegations are part of a federal complaint filed on Monday to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. In it, the whistleblower is identified as Dawn Wooten, a nurse who had worked at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) until July 2020.

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody,” Wooten said of the gynecologist performing the procedures. “He’s even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady. She was supposed to get her left ovary removed because it had a cyst on the left ovary; he took out the right one.

“She was upset. She had to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy. She still wanted children — so she has to go back home now and tell her husband that she can’t bear kids.”

One female detainee cited in the complaint even likened the procedures to that of “an experimental concentration camp.”

“It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies,” she said. 

Wooten went on to say that many of the women receiving these procedures have told her that they didn’t fully understand why they had to get them. That has now raised the question of whether or not these women truly gave their informed consent.

“These immigrant women, I don’t think they really, totally, all the way understand this is what’s going to happen depending on who explains it to them,” Wooten said.

This is because, according to Wooten, nurses at the facility who don’t speak Spanish will use Google to try to communicate with patients. In other cases, Wooten said the nurses will use another detained immigrant to help interpret, rather than following protocol and using the language line.

The complaint also details the account of another woman, a detainee at the facility who said the staff at ICDC and the doctor’s office did not properly explain what procedure she was going to have. 

In fact, that woman says she was given multiple different responses, including that she needed a small procedure to drain an ovarian cyst, that she was receiving a hysterectomy to have her womb removed, and later, that part of her vagina would be scraped off because she had a thick womb. 

After receiving these conflicting explanations, the woman said she tried to explain that to a nurse, but the nurse responded by getting angry with her and yelling at her. According to the woman’s testimony in the complaint, the nurse’s response confirmed “that something was not right.”

Ultimately, this woman never actually received any of the procedures she said were described to her because she tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 Allegations

Wooten also alleged that there was a widespread disregard for protecting ICDC staff and detainees from COVID-19.

According to Wooten, that includes a lack of social distancing, denying tests for symptomatic detainees, and even placing people who had tested positive back into the general population.

Wooten claims that facility officials would underreport the number of positive cases. In some cases, she said nurses at the facility would shred medical requests submitted by detained immigrants and would fabricate medical records.

Regarding staff, Wooten said they were pressured to “work symptomatic and work positive as long as we had a mask on,”  Notably, that is against the official policies of the facility.

Wooten said even though she became symptomatic at one point and submitted her doctor’s notes to her supervisor, they still required her to work until she told them she would be quarantining while her test results came back. When she later returned to work after testing negative, she said she was formally reprimanded for not calling in sick every day, even though she was allegedly told she didn’t have to.

Wooten also said she complained to leadership multiple times about medical safety at the facility but was later demoted, “all without a proper explanation or adequate justification.” She’s described the move as retaliation for speaking up.

“They’re still not taking this seriously,” Wooten told The Intercept. “Enough was enough.”

ICE Response and Government Reaction 

Following these allegations, ICE told the Associated Press, “In general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”

In another statement to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, it also defended its handling of the coronavirus, saying, “ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees.” 

The private company that runs ICDC, LaSalle Corrections, has not publicly responded but is also implicated in the complaint.

This is also not the first time LaSalle has come under fire for how it has handled the pandemic. In July, multiple whistleblowers alleged that a separate detention center in Louisiana, which is operated by LaSalle, had engaged in “gross mismanagement, dangerous practices, and compliance failures” that accelerated the spread of COVID-19. 

LaSalle Executive Director Rodney Cooper then defended the company before Congress, saying that it had taken “tremendous efforts” to “mitigate impacts of this unprecedented pandemic.”

Still, according to The Intercept, many of Wooten’s claims were corroborated by at least five others, including a member of ICDC’s medical staff and four people currently or recently detained there. 

The same day the complaint was filed, Georgia House Minority Leader Bob Trammell (D) sent a letter to the state’s medical and nursing boards, asking them to suspend the licenses of any practitioners implicated in the complaint until a full investigation is conducted.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Ny.) has called the allegations part of “mass human rights violations,” saying on Twitter, “Our country must atone for it all.”

Thursday morning, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) echoed calls for an immediate investigation.

“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint… are a staggering abuse of human rights,” she said in a statement. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Atlanta-Journal Constitution) (Associated Press)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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