Press Release: Regarding OSHA Investigation Results, Emphasize Current Dangers of COVID-19 in Irwin County Detention Center, ICE Detention in General

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 19, 2021

Regarding the results of the OSHA investigation, the focus is on the current dangers of COVID-19 in the Irwin County detention center, ICE detention in general

WASHINGTON – Today, the Government Accountability Project alerted major congressional offices to the results of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC), a facility run by the private prison company LaSalle Corrections in Ocilla, Georgia. The ICDC held the immigrants in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) until the beginning of September 2021, when ICE terminated its contract with the ICDC. The OSHA inspection, conducted in December 2020, was prompted by a complaint filed by the Government Accountability Project on behalf of a confidential whistleblower regarding unsafe conditions for employees and migrants detained at CDBI due to COVID -19.

The CDBI has long been plagued by reports of limited access to medical care, unsafe work practices, and the lack of adequate COVID-19 protections for migrants and detained workers. Many of these concerns were raised by Government Accountability Project client whistleblower Dawn Wooten during disclosures to the Office of the Inspector General and Congress of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in September 2020. The protections and protections COVID protocols remain in effect as the private prison continues to hold non-immigrant inmates. ICE prisons and detention centers assembly places are known vectors for the spread of COVID, a virus that does not distinguish between workers, immigrants or local communities near at-risk detention centers serious illness and death.

OSHA results show repeated and systemic failures by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE, and LaSalle Corrections to address dangerous conditions at CDBI related to the spread of COVID-19, and reveal flaws in OSHA’s own ability to monitor workers’ health. and security. The OSHA investigation confirms several troubling themes, including:

  1. Weaknesses in OSHA’s inspection and citation process reveal a lack of meaningful oversight mechanisms available to the thousands of people working in the ICE detention system, a known source of the spread of COVID-19.
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a serious threat to ICDC prisoners, people who work at ICDC, and the surrounding community.
  3. The findings of the recent OSHA investigation at the ICDC reflect systemic racism in the U.S. immigration system that disproportionately harms Blacks, Aboriginals and Other People of Color (BIPOC).

Concerns raised by the confidential whistleblower and subsequent OSHA inspection reflect an urgent need for a system-wide investigation into the current lack of essential safeguards to combat the spread of COVID-19 to workers, detainees and local communities in and around gatherings. such as ICE prisons and detention centers.

On July 13, 2020, LaSalle management testified before Congress that they were complying with all required health protocols. Yet more than a year later, OSHA’s investigation and findings prove otherwise.

Samantha Feinstein, lawyer with the Government Accountability Project and counsel to the confidential whistleblower, said:

“To our knowledge, the OSHA inspection at the ICDC is the first federal OSHA inspection of an ICE detention facility since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are pleased that OSHA has issued citations and fined LaSalle Corrections, we are also discouraged by the leniency towards LaSalle Corrections and concerned about the many challenges we have encountered during the investigation process of LaSalle Corrections. ‘OSHA while representing our client. Two CDBI staff members have died from COVID-19. Many more have contracted the virus. The ICDC’s lack of adequate oversight and accountability remains a matter of life and death and leaves workers and inmates with no real remedies.

Dana Gold, senior legal counsel for the Government Accountability Project and counsel for the confidential whistleblower, said:

“OSHA’s failure to meaningfully protect workers at ICDC or other ICE detention centers from unsafe conditions amounts to a failure to protect immigrants and the public as well. The ICE and private prison companies like LaSalle Corrections have repeatedly demonstrated their inability and unwillingness to responsibly care for workers and those in their care even before the dangerous pandemic. We hope Congress acts diligently to address the continued threat posed by COVID-19 and substandard conditions in ICE detention centers and to strengthen OSHA’s ability to fulfill its protective mandate. worker health and safety. “

Contact: Andrew Harman, Director of Communications
E-mail: [email protected]
Telephone: (202) 926-3304

Government Accountability Project

Government Accountability Project is the premier national whistleblower protection organization. By advocating whistleblower cases, raising concerns and developing legal reforms, the mission of the Government Accountability Project is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, DC

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