Dawn Wooten is the Georgia nurse who is alleging that hysterectomies, that women did not consent to, were performed while the women were in the custody of ICE at the Irwin County Detention Center. The facility is privately owned by Lasalle Corrections. It is located in Ocilla, Georgia, around 190 miles south of Atlanta.
On September 14, Wooten, 42, filed a complaint with officials at the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Irwin County Detention Center. In the complaint, Wooten alleges that multiple women were sent to see the same gynecologist, who is not named in the complaint, off-site. Wooten says that “Everbody he sees has a hysterectomy-just about everybody.” Wooten alleged that in one instance, a woman had the wrong ovary removed as the doctor sought to remove a cyst. The woman had to return to the doctor and have the other ovary removed in order to deal with the cyst. Wooten says in the complaint, “She still wanted children-so she has to go back home now and tell her husband that she can’t bear kids.”
Wooten said that “several inmates” told her that they do not know why they had to have hysterectomies. In another section of the complaint, Wooten refers to the gynecologist as being known as “the uterus collector.” Wooten continued, “Everybody he sees, he’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taken their tubes out. What in the world.”
Wooten Spoke About the Death of Her Mentor in Her Complaint
In another section of the complaint, Wooten says that COVID-19 precautions are not maintained with regard to keeping exam areas and quarantine areas sanitary. Wooten says that employees were forced to come into work even if they were systematic of coronavirus. Something that Wooten herself in June 2020 when she began displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
Wooten also mentions the death of Marion Cole from COVID. Cole had been the health service administrator at the Irwin County Detention Center. Wooten said that she and other employees as well as inmates believe that Cole was exposed to the virus inside of the facility. Wooten said that the new administrator told staff that Cole contracted the virus at a family event and age and underlying health issues contributed to her death.
Wooten mourned Cole on Facebook in May 2020. Wooten said that she and Cole had a “beautiful supervisor to employee relationship.” Wooten credits Cole with teaching her “so much about life, people, coworkers and nursing.” Wooten referred to Cole as her mentor and said that she will miss hearing Cole call her name most of all.
Wooten Says She Was Demoted Because of Her Complaints & Was ‘Thrown to the Wolves’
Wooten says in her complaint that she was demoted in July 2020 from a full-time position to being “as-needed” without “proper explanation or justification.” Wooten said in an interview with The Intercept that she believes her complaints were related to her demotion. Wpptem said, “I was thrown to the wolves. I have nothing to lose at this point.” The Intercept article did not mention hysterectomies. Wooten told the website that she suffers from sickle cell anemia and says that she warned her supervisors that exposure to COVID could be fatal. Wooten also talked about her fear of bring in the virus home to her children, one of whom has asthma.
A staff attorney with Project South, the group who published Wooten’s complaint, told The Intercept, “Ms. Wooten’s whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years — gross disregard for health and safety standards, lack of medical care, and unsanitary living conditions.”
According to Wooten’s LinkedIn page, she has worked at the Irwin County Detention Center since June 2014 as a licensed practical nurse. Wooten studied nursing at South Georgia State College.