A Tennesee judge claims he was thinking about the kids when he offered to sterilize jail inmates. To help out, he also agreed to shorten their jail sentences by 30 days. The plan appeared to be a success as 32 women received implants that would help prevent pregnancy for four years and 38 men were waiting for vasectomies.
Then everyone else found out and the sh*t hit the fan.
General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield has announced that he’ll take back his earlier decision following an onslaught of public backlash. Fortunately, anyone who signed up for the programs will still receive the benefit of a shortened sentence, according to the Washington Post.
“I wasn’t on a crusade,” Benningfield told the Times Free Press. “I don’t have a ‘mission.’ I thought I could help a few folks, get them thinking and primarily help children.”
Part of Benningfield’s reasoning was that the support he claimed he had from the Department of Health was no longer part of the equation. Now, this could either mean the department hung him out to dry, that there some some miscommunication or that he flat-out lied.
“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,” said Shelly Walker, a health department spokesperson. “We do not support any policy that could compel incarcerated individuals to seek any particular health services from us or from other providers.”
Fortunately, this attempt to sterilize a population some deemed as less than won’t be unfairly pressured into making long-term decisions with such a high price.
The ACLU released the following statement following the judge’s decision:
“Though the program was technically ‘voluntary,’ spending even a few days in jail can lead to the loss of jobs, child custody, housing and vehicles. To the individual faced with these collateral consequences of time spent behind bars, a choice between sterilization or contraception and a reduced jail sentence is not much of a choice at all. The judge’s order crossed a constitutional line and we are pleased that he rescinded it.”