Ocilla, Georgia — Today Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, GLAHR, South Georgia Immigrant Support Network and Detention Watch Network are celebrating the news that no immigrant women are currently detained at the Irwin County Detention Center (Irwin) in Georgia as verified by groups on the ground. The announcement comes seven months after a shocking DHS OIG complaint was filed by Georgia-based groups that included horrific accounts from detained immigrants and whistleblower nurse, Dawn Wooten, describing multiple levels of abuse including neglecting to follow COVID-19 protocol and a pattern of gynecological procedures happening without informed consent at the facility. Accounts of medical abuse garnered national headlines and a Congressional inquiry into the facility. This inquiry, along with years of advocacy, detained people’s testimonies and evidence-gathering by Georgia groups, has led to this moment.
While encouraged by this news, advocates are gravely concerned about the fact that men are still detained at Irwin and that some of the women, including women who have come forward with abuse allegations, have been deported. Additionally, some women have been transferred and are now detained at the corporate-run Stewart Detention Center, which is one of the deadliest facilities in the country. Groups are demanding immediate action by the Biden administration:
- Shut down the Irwin County Detention Center and end the detention contract. Irwin is operated by private prison corporation, LaSalle Corrections, that contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The facility must be shut down and the contract must be terminated.
- Everyone should be released back to their loved ones and community. There are still men detained at the facility. Everyone must be released back to their loved ones and community without being transferred to another detention facility.
- Survivors of medical abuse at Irwin must receive a measure of redress for the harm they suffered.
- The United States government as well as the private prison corporation LaSalle must be held accountable for the harm that they caused.
- Shut down and release people from the deadly Stewart Detention Center.
For years, Georgia-based immigrants’ rights groups have been calling for the release of everyone at Irwin and demanding the shut down of the facility. Project South published Imprisoned Injustice in 2017 along with Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic detailing abuse at Irwin and the nearby Stewart detention center, while also calling on the Georgia Congressional Delegation and United Nations to investigate both facilities. The Irwin Detention Center is also named in Detention Watch Network’s “First Ten to Communities Not Cages” campaign, demanding the administration shut down 10 detention centers in Biden’s first year.
In response to the release of women at Irwin and the continued demands to shut down the facility and end the contract, immigrants’ rights advocates issued the following statements:
Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal & Advocacy Director at Project South, said:
“The release of women from Irwin, brought about through years of organizing and speaking out about the abuses, is a step in the right direction. We will not rest however until Irwin and Stewart are both shut down. Transfer of women from one corporate-run detention center with a track record of human rights violations to another deadly one is not going to get ICE off the hook.”
Setareh Ghandehari, Advocacy Director at Detention Watch Network, said:
“People must be released back to their community and loved ones as they navigate their immigration case, not just transferred from one fraught detention center to another. We continue to applaud the formerly detained women at Irwin who bravely spoke out about the abusive medical treatment they faced while in ICE custody and the tireless efforts of Georgia groups exposing the facility and demanding for it to be shut down. The Irwin detention center is emblematic of how the immigration detention system as a whole is inherently abusive, unjust and fatally flawed beyond repair. The Biden administration must shut down detention centers immediately and end detention contracts.”
Georgia Detention Watch (GDW) is a coalition of organizations and individuals that advocates alongside immigrants to end the inhumane and unjust detention and law enforcement policies and practices directed against immigrant communities in our state.
Project South is a Southern-based leadership development organization that creates spaces for movement building. We work with communities pushed forward by the struggle– to strengthen leadership and to provide popular political and economic education for personal and social transformation. We build relationships with organizations and networks across the US and global South to inform our local work and to engage in bottom-up movement building for social and economic justice.
South Georgia Immigrant Support Network is a humanitarian non-profit based in Tifton, Georgia, that encourages hope and resilience through relationships with immigrants detained and formerly detained at ICDC, and their loved ones.
Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) educates, organizes, and empowers Latinos in Georgia to defend and advance their civil and human rights. Established in 2001, GLAHR is a community-based organization that develops statewide grassroots leadership.
Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition building power through collective advocacy, grassroots organizing, and strategic communications to abolish immigration detention in the United States. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level. Visit detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow on Twitter @DetentionWatch.