July 21 (UPI) — Prisoners at a small county jail in Tennessee are being given an opportunity to get 30 days off their sentence if they agree to be sterilized.
Sam Benningfield, the only judge in White County, Tenn., which has a population of about 26,000 people, said he introduced the program as a way to prevent repeat drug offenders and other people accused of crimes to not have children.
“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 told News Channel 5.
The program was introduced on May 15 to both men and women. So far, 32 women have had a Nexplanon implant put in their arm, which can prevent child birth for up to four years. Thirty-eight men have signed up to get a vasectomy, which can be permanent.
Although the only judge in White County is excited about the program and says it can encourage responsibility and reduce recidivism, District Attorney Bryant Dunaway believes it is unethical.
“It’s concerning to me, my office doesn’t support this order,” Dunaway said.
“It’s comprehensible that an 18-year-old gets this done, it can’t get reversed and then that impacts the rest of their life.”
It might also be unconstitutional.
“Offering a so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU chapter in Tennessee. “Such a choice violates the fundamental constitutional right to reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity by interfering with the intimate decision of whether and when to have a child, imposing an intrusive medical procedure on individuals who are not in a position to reject it.”
Getting sterilized in exchange for a reduced sentence is sometimes an option in special cases, such as Virginia man Jessie Lee Herald, who agreed to a vasectomy after a hit-and-run conviction that injured his 3-year-old son.
The judge noticed that Herald had several children with several women and offered the vasectomy in exchange for five years to be shaved off his sentence.
California also sterilized nearly 150 women between 2006 and 2010 without proper approval, according to the Center of Investigative Reporting.