Above Photo: Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
Washington — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement failed to properly monitor informed consent protocols used by a doctor accused of performing non-consensual gynecological procedures on women detained at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, according to a new report published today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the National Immigration Project and Project South. The report also highlights other longstanding problems and systemic oversight failures that are currently the focus of several federal investigations of the facility.
For years, advocates raised concerns about the mistreatment of immigrants detained at ICDC, a county-owned prison run by LaSalle Corrections that has contracted with ICE to detain immigrants since 2011. In May, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was severing ICE’s contracts with ICDC “as soon as possible,” due to the “open and unresolved” investigations of abuse at the facility.
The newly released ICE records, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, confirm longstanding problems at ICDC and outline a slew of oversight failures by ICE, including:
- A failure to monitor doctors’ consent protocols and use of language translation services, and a lack of Spanish-speaking medical staff. Several emails suggest a hands-off approach by ICE in which it did not track, monitor, or audit whether (or how) outside medical providers obtained informed consent from people detained at ICDC, or used language translation services when providing medical treatment to people with limited English proficiency.
- Violations of ICE detention standards for medical care and vetting medical providers. Inspection reports found numerous violations of ICE detention standards and other deficiencies, including an inability to “validate if peer reviews” by an “external state physician” had been completed for “independently licensed medical professionals” providing care to people detained at ICDC.
- A history of complaints lodged with ICE by the Mexican Consulate and advocates, with claims of abuse and neglect at ICDC going back as far as 2018. The claims included “verbal abuse and continuous discrimination” by ICDC staff; serving molding and rotting food; unhygienic conditions in the showers, hallways and dining areas; and insect infestation in both the food being served and communal areas. A March 2020 weekly report from ICE Detention Standards Compliance Officers described an ICDC officer who on multiple occasions exposed himself and made sexual comments and gestures in front of a detainee.
- Recurring deficiencies relating to healthcare, detention conditions, and mistreatment of people detained at the facility, including the lack of medical and mental healthcare, unsanitary conditions, lack of prenatal care for women and the aggressive use of solitary confinement in violation of ICE detention standards.
“With several federal investigations underway, the government must thoroughly examine not only the misconduct of those employed at the Irwin County Detention Center, but also systemic oversight failures by ICE at this center and all other detention centers across the country. The government must also take steps to make victims whole and hold wrongdoers accountable, both to affirm the dignity of detained people and to deter future abuses,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder.
“The government must not only further investigate the widespread abuse and misconduct detailed in these reports, but it must also ensure that all individuals harmed through these violations are provided the support they need to heal and thrive. While the abuse documented at Irwin County Detention Center has been especially egregious, we know that immigrant lives are in danger anytime they are in ICE custody. Ultimately, we hope the Biden administration sees these records as further proof that the U.S. immigration detention system is inherently abusive and flawed beyond repair,” said National Immigration Project Executive Director Sirine Shebaya.
“We will not rest until the women who suffered medical abuse at Irwin receive a measure of redress and compensation. And until ICE and the prison corporation LaSalle are held accountable for allowing the abuses to take place,” said Project South Legal and Advocacy Director Azadeh Shahshahani.