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Multiple sexual assault investigations at Georgia ICE detention center

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said in a statement there were two active investigations into accusations at Stewart Detention Center.
Credit: AP Photo/David Goldman

STEWART COUNTY, Ga. — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed Thursday, it is conducting two active investigations into sexual assault allegations at a southwest Georgia detention facility.

The Intercept first reported this week four women have brought accusations against a nurse at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, about 40 minutes south of Columbus.

According to that report, the nurse remains employed at the detention center and continues to see patients. A complaint filed earlier this week with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties alleged that the nurse coerced the women in order to get "access to private parts of their body" he should not have been examining.

The complaint further alleges that when two of the women reported the nurse's behavior, "officers threatened them with legal action and prolonged detention."

In a statement, ICE said two allegations at Stewart Detention Center "remain under investigation." 

"ICE has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of assault, including sexual abuse, and works to protect detainees from sexual abuse by staff as well as other detainees," the statement said. "Every allegation is investigated and referred appropriately for adjudication as required."

ICE said that at Stewart Detention Center, it conducted an administrative investigation following allegations and determined initial allegations were unsubstantiated.

The nurse is unidentified in the federal complaint. A private company that operates Stewart Detention Center, CoreCivic, said an investigation into two of the accusations determined one was unsubstantiated and one was unfounded. 

CoreCivic said the nurse was placed on administrative leave during the first two investigations and then returned to the job when he was cleared. They also said they "unequivocally deny any claims of threats or retaliation."

"The two detainees making these claims were offered appropriate medical and mental health services, emotional support services, and answers to any questions they had about the investigative process," the company said. "They were both released from our custody prior to the conclusion of the administrative investigation."

A statement by the company said they will investigate the other two accusations "thoroughly." 

It's unclear if the those two cases are the same that ICE is currently investigating.

The complaint, filed by several advocacy groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, says an audit under the Prison Rape Elimination Act conducted in May 2021 found at least one substantiated allegation of sexual assault against a detainee by a Stewart Detention Center staff member.

The complaint also refers to a May 2022 report that "indicates there were eight allegations of sexual abuse and assault by staff/contractor on detained individuals at Stewart in the preceding twelve months, and at least two were substantiated."

In its statement, ICE said Stewart passed the May 2021 Prison Rape Elimination Act audit and completed corrective action in January 2022.

The allegations at Stewart follow the closing of Irwin Detention Center in south Georgia last year, which came after high-profile accusations against an OBGYN at the facility alleging he had performed several unnecessary vaginal surgeries and medical procedures

    

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