Friday, September 18, 2020
Tifton, Georgia
The Irwin County detention Center in Ocilla houses immigrant detainees for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).
Tifton Grapevine
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Ocilla is at the center of national scrutiny as a whistleblower complaint alleges that immigrants there are undergoing numerous, questionable hysterectomies.

The complaint, filed with the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, claims that detainees at the Irwin County Detention Center receive poor care and face unhealthy conditions at the privately run facility.

Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse who had worked at the detention center, claims in the complaint that a gynecologist who treated detainees was referred to as the “uterus collector” and performed “mass hysterectomies.”

“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy, just about everybody. ... He’s even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady,” Wooten alleged in the complaint.

The gynecologist, Dr. Mahendra Amin, is an obstetrics and gynecology specialist in Douglas and, according to his online profile, has more than 45 years of experience in the medical field. He is affiliated with Coffee Regional Medical Center and Irwin County Hospital. His lawyer has denied the whistleblower's allegations.

Wooten, the whistleblower, told a press conference Tuesday that the Irwin facility also refused to treat immigrants with coronavirus symptoms, would not isolate ill detainees, and did not provide sufficient personal protective equipment to staff.

“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint – including allegations of mass hysterectomies being performed on vulnerable immigrant women – are a staggering abuse of human rights,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement this week.

Congressman Austin Scott, R-Tifton, said his office is “aware of the whistleblower complaint at the Irwin County Detention Center that was filed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General. We have reached out to DHS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and they have assured us that they take all allegations seriously and are firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in their custody.

"We will continue to be in contact with them as they investigate these claims,” Scott said.

Advocacy groups Project South, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Georgia Detention Watch, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network filed the complaint on Wooten’s behalf.

The Irwin County Detention Center is operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private firm that runs immigration detention facilities in Georgia, Texas, and Louisiana.
Work has been going on behind the scenes to address disputes between the City of Tifton and Tift County regarding delivery of services, and the Tift County Commission this week sent its latest proposal to the city about handling specified services.

The Tift County Commission proposes handling some services from the county's general fund, such as EMS, non-emergency E-911 dispatching, recreation and animal control. Road maintenance and construction would remain unchanged. The Tifton-Tift County Public Library would be funded jointly.

Also, the city could continue contracting with the sheriff for housing inmates, with the tax collector for city tax collection, and with the Tift County Board of Elections for municipal elections.

The county proposes updating the joint Service Delivery Strategy after pending
water and sewer litigation is concluded and after the city and county dismiss any claims unrelated to the water and wastewater systems.

For a couple of years, the city and county have been attempting to reach agreement on a Service Delivery Strategy. Every 10 years, the state requires local governments to adopt a joint plan to detail what services – such as fire, water, animal control, etc., – are provided and who provides them. Earlier this summer, negotiations on the plan fell apart between the two governments, and court mediation was requested.
Gov. Brian P. Kemp issued new state guidelines late Tuesday that will allow more visitors at long-term care facilities.

In-person visits will be “subject to specific criteria and restrictions outlined by the Department of Public Health.” Kemp's latest executive order allows visits based upon such criteria as testing rates, case numbers and the level of community spread.

Kemp's order makes no changes to mandatory restrictions in place for businesses, including food establishments, bars, cinemas, bowling alleys, salons, barbers, cosmetologists, amusement parks, live performance and event venues.

The shelter-in-place provisions for residents of long-term care facilities and the medically fragile remain in place. The order also continues to include a ban on large gatherings of 50 persons unless social distancing is maintained.

The current order runs through Sept. 30.
Georgia fell to No. 46 among the states in a new ranking of health system performance, down from 42nd the previous year, according to Georgia Health News.

The 2020 Commonwealth Fund report on states’ health system performance, released last week, noted that Georgia performed well on some measures, such as the number of diabetic adults having an annual hemoglobin test and improved mobility for home health patients.

But the state’s ranking was dragged down by a high percentage of adults having no health insurance and the percentage of Georgians who went without medical care because of cost, Georgia Health News reported.

The Commonwealth Fund rankings cover the 50 states plus Washington, D.C., so the lowest possible ranking is 51. The most recent data used are from 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the state.

The report said Americans are living shorter lives than they did in 2014, and African Americans are twice as likely as whites to die from treatable conditions.
Tiftarea Academy has selected its 2020 Homecoming Court attendants.

Pictured above and standing in back row, from left, are: Eighth-grader Lindsey Carter, daughter of Dennis and Joy Carter; freshman Addison Jackson, daughter of Bill and Donna Jackson; sophomore Claire Wynn, daughter of Matt and Karen Wynn; sophomore Jolee Paulk, daughter of Laurie Paulk and Mac Paulk; and junior Kennedy Brooks, daughter of Chris and Mandy Brooks. 

Seated in front row, from left, are: Marlee Gunter, daughter of Chad and Myla Gunter; Allee Cooper, daughter of Matt and Becky Cooper; and Kaitlynn Willis, daughter of Greg and Helen Willis.
Tiftarea Academy will crown a new queen on Friday, Sept. 25 in Chula. Fans are invited to come out to the Family Food Truck Night before and during the game. Food trucks will be set up and ready to serve by 6 p.m. That game versus Frederica Academy begins at 7 p.m. Masks are recommended where social distancing cannot occur. 
Pecan scab fungus is the most destructive disease of pecans in Georgia.
University of Georgia faculty will begin a series of pecan trials this winter to help identify better management practices for growers.

Andrew Sawyer, Southeast Georgia area pecan agent for UGA Cooperative Extension, is spearheading several research projects with a team of UGA researchers looking at factors that affect the pecan industry, such as variety selection, insect pest management, disease resistance and herbicide application rates. The research is funded by a Pecan Commodity Commission grant.

Sawyer, based in Statesboro, supports pecan growers throughout Southeast Georgia. The position is funded by the Georgia Pecan Growers Association and UGA Extension to support Extension pecan specialist Lenny Wells at the UGA Tifton campus.
The team will primarily study the effects of pecan scab fungus on various cultivars. Pecan scab begins in the tissues of the tree trunk, and at bud break in the spring, the disease begins to rapidly spread through the limbs, leaves and eventually the nuts. It's the most detrimental disease to pecans in Georgia, causing severe economic losses each year.

“Since 2008, UGA researchers in Tifton have been working with alternative cultivars that are resistant to pecan scab, have low input requirements, are high yielding and produce great quality nuts. Some of the best varieties we’ve seen are 'Excel,' 'Lakota,' 'Gafford,' 'McMillan' and 'Kanza,'” said Sawyer.
State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods meets recently with Jennifer Walker, a teacher at Irwin County Elementary School, and congratulates her on 30 years in the classroom.
State School Superintendent Richard Woods has been visiting schools across the state to see first-hand how they are coping with the pandemic and says he has seen "unprecedented collaboration and creativity, careful planning, flexibility, and teachers bringing all their skill and professionalism to the fore to keep students safe and keep them learning."

In a press release this week, Woods detailed some of his observations, including while visiting schools in the Tiftarea:

"In Irwin County, where I was a teacher and administrator for many years, protocols in place to ensure students' safety include a mask requirement for students and staff through the school dress code, daily temperature screenings, and the construction of clear dividers for mealtimes.

"At Fitzgerald High School, my alma mater, leaders have implemented a mask requirement and are distancing students in classrooms – assisted by a strong virtual learning option for students and families who choose it," Woods said.

"In my home of Tift County, there is a strong emphasis on interactions between virtual-learning students and their classmates and teachers. Students who have opted for remote learning are joining in-person class discussions through Google Classroom, and all lessons are recorded during the day.

"Think of a student who may have younger siblings and need help to care for them during the day – the option to come back and revisit the class in the evening has been helpful for students who need that flexibility," he said.

Woods said school openings have not been without some issues around the state, and he asked Georgians to "continue to hold us accountable, that they speak up and express their concerns. But I also ask that they extend grace to each other. It is always more productive if we – educators, parents, students, community members – build trust with each other and work together in good faith."
Registration is now open for the "Run for the Nurses" on Oct. 24 at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. 

Originally scheduled for April but delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Run for the Nurses begins with the half marathon at 7 a.m. followed by the 5K at 8 a.m.

Race Coordinator Ric Stewart, ABAC’s annual giving and development coordinator, said the half marathon is certified by USA Track and Field and serves as a qualifier for major national races.

“We plan to have this race in-person on ABAC’s beautiful campus utilizing safety precautions and social distancing measures,” Stewart said. “We will have a virtual contingency plan, and registrants will receive their race packets in the mail if that option becomes necessary.”

Stewart said chip timing will be used, and all participants will receive medals. Online registration is available at or at

The event raises funds for The Lisa Purvis Allison Spirit of Nursing Scholarship in honor of a nurse who died shortly after graduating from ABAC’s nursing school in 2009.
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This dog is currently on stray hold at the Tift County Animal Shelter. If not reclaimed, will be available for adoption or rescue at the Animal Shelter, located at 278 Georgia Highway 125 S. It is open to the public for adoptions from 1-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

For more information, call 229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch’s Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055  
Important Phone Numbers & Web Sites
SEPT. 10
Jerry Lamar Crumley, 77, Omega
Floyd Coates, 76, Moultrie
David Allen Howard, 56, Fitzgerald
Barbara Gleaton Acree, 68, Atlanta
Ronald Walker, 84, Lenox

SEPT. 11
Dylan Scott Watson, 18, Worth County
Glenn Bundy, 71, Nashville

SEPT. 12
Joyce Clements George, 89, Tifton
James Irven Baldree, 84, Chula
Faye Swain Glover, 78, Tifton
The Rev. Randy Mosley, 65, Sparks
Dosha Marie Morgan, 82, Ray City
Marty Duane Griffin Sr., 54, Ocilla

SEPT. 13
Ruth “Bermont” Taylor DeLille, 85, Thomasville
Peggy S. Griffin Folsom, 81, Adel
Frances Martin Abbott, 83, Albany
Zane Watson Robinson, 79, Pavo
Michele Rae Miracle Parker, 50, Quitman

SEPT. 14
Patricia Ann Adams Turner, 67, Tifton
Sally Nell Johnson Handley, 68, Tifton

SEPT. 15
Earl Beanblossom Jr., 79, Sylvester
Roger Alfred Roberts Sr., 81, Fitzgerald

SEPT. 16
Janice Dryden Adair, 79, Ashburn
Peggy Horne Gaskins, 65, Nashville 
James Edward "Ed" Johnson, 69, Nashville
SEPT. 17
John Wayne Bannister, 76, Tifton
William “Leroy” Lane Sr., 83, Tifton
Patsy Tomberlin, 69, Fitzgerald

Tifton Grapevine
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Frank Sayles Jr.
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Bonnie Sayles
Managing Editor
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