January 24, 2022

Nurse Dawn Wooten Discusses Her Experience as a Whistleblower on the New Yorker Radio Hour

WASHINGTON—The New Yorker Radio Hour has released their most recent episode featuring Government Accountability Project’s whistleblower client, Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) run by private prison company LaSalle Corrections. In September 2020, Wooten blew the whistle publicly about failures at ICDC to protect staff and immigrants in detention from the spread of COVID-19, in addition to concerns that numerous immigrant women were undergoing invasive gynecological procedures without consent.

Wooten’s shocking disclosures went viral, prompting public outcry, multiple congressional and agency investigations, a class action lawsuit seeking justice for their mistreatment, and DHS Secretary Mayorkas’s decision in May 2021 ordering ICE to end its immigration detention contract with ICDC. Yet even as DHS OIG earlier this month issued one report validating many of Ms. Wooten’s disclosures, Ms. Wooten is still waiting for findings to be issued by the DHS OIG in her whistleblower retaliation complaint filed more than fifteen months ago.

Even though her whistleblowing helped expose and end grotesque abuses, Wooten has suffered ongoing retaliation for making the brave decision to stand up for what is right. Wooten, a single mother of five, was unable to secure work—as a qualified nurse during a pandemic—for months.

In the interview, Wooten discusses life since the story broke and what blowing the whistle means to her.

“It’s like everybody’s getting answers but me. And everybody’s getting relief but these women. So, we’re the only two left hanging in the balance. These women still have scars that they have to carry from here until the end of their time on this earth. And my voice with their bodies paved the way for the decision to be made, so what’s holding up? Each day is lost time for me. It’s lost time.”

Dana Gold, Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel and lead counsel for Ms. Wooten commented:

“Dawn Wooten’s disclosures about some of the most grotesque abuses imaginable demonstrate the power of information provided by whistleblowers to protect the vulnerable and catalyze accountability. But too often we forget that a real person is behind that information, and that person often suffers significant costs for their decision to speak up for what’s right.  Dawn’s story is one of retaliation and resilience and reminds all of us how much we as a society depend on, and need to protect, all whistleblowers.”

Contact: Andrew Harman, Communications Director
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (202) 926-3304

Government Accountability Project

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.