Whether they are being tortured by their jailers or dying of dehydration, prison inmates are often extremely vulnerable (and subject) to mistreatment. One Tennessee judge has really tried to up the ante in this regard by offering inmates who come through his court credit for time served if they undergo birth control procedures — like a vasectomy or and implant. Unsurprisingly, the ACLU is calling the judge’s program “unconstitutional.”
General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield of White County, Tennessee signed an order in May giving inmates 30 days off of their jail sentences if they were to volunteer for the program. Female inmates who do receive a Nexplanon implant in their arm, which prevents pregnancies for up to four years. The male inmates, meanwhile, undergo a vasectomy procedure. According to county officials, 32 women and 38 men have already volunteered for the controversial program. In an interview with local outlet News Channel 5, Benningfield explained his rationale:
“I hope to encourage them to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, to not to be burdened with children. This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves,” Judge Benningfield said in an interview.
“I understand it won’t be entirely successful but if you reach two or three people, maybe that’s two or three kids not being born under the influence of drugs. I see it as a win, win,” he added.
However, White County District Attorney Bryant Dunaway has publicly said he does not support the order. Neither does the ACLU. In a statement, the latter said the “so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional,” because it violates the right to reproductive autonomy and inmates are not in a position to reject the procedure. “Judges play an important role in our community — overseeing individuals’ childbearing capacity should not be part of that role,” the statement concludes.
This isn’t even the biggest example of state-mandated sterilization, sadly. In 2014, North Carolina was ordered to pay restitution to living victims of its coerced and forced sterilization program that almost universally targeted poor people of color. That program operated for nearly 50 years.
(Via News Channel 5)