Tennessee judge pulls vasectomy for reduced jail time offer after backlash

Barsaba Taglieri
Luglio 28, 2017

"I'm trying to help these folks begin to think about taking responsibility for their life and giving them a leg up - you know, when they get out of jail - to perhaps rehabilitate themselves and not be burdened again with unwanted children and all that comes with that", Benningfield told CBS News.

General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield issued an order in May offering White County inmates a chance to reduce their sentences by 30 days if they agreed to have a vasectomy or get a birth control implant. His reasoning: he was exhausted of hearing inmates saying they couldn't afford child support. However, Inmates who had already taken advantage of the order would be credited the 30-days.

"It seemed to me nearly a no-brainer", he told NewsChannel5.

Originally issued in May, the highly unorthodox order received national media attention after a local news station reported on it last week.

The judge says the state Health Department initially asked him to help educate inmates about babies born dependent on drugs.

Officials said that since the program started, some 32 women have gotten the implant, while 28 men are waiting to have their vasectomy performed.

The Tennessee offer is reminiscent of a 2015 investigation that found four California prisons had performed 144 sterilizations on Black and Latino inmates - 39 of which were in clear violation of protocol and occurred either without the women's informed consent or as a condition of their release from prison.

"Neither the Tennessee Department of Health nor the White County Health Department was involved in developing any policy to offer sentence reductions to those convicted of crimes in exchange for their receiving family planning services", Shelly Walker, the agency spokesperson, told the Washington Post.

"I wasn't on a crusade", Benningfield said. "We do not support any policy that could compel incarcerated individuals to seek any particular health services from us or from other providers". It's also been denounced by the White County District Attorney's office.

"We are pleased that Judge Benningfield rescinded his unconstitutional standing order that offered a 30-day jail credit to inmates in exchange for getting vasectomies or birth control implants".

"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", the ACLU said in a statement obtained by WTVF.

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