Summary: A jail in Tennessee offers inmates a reduced sentence if they agree to four-year birth control or a vasectomy.
Officials in White County, Tennessee are offering Inmates a Sophie’s Choice–voluntarily get a vasectomy birth control or spend an extra month in jail. So far, 38 male inmates have signed up.
According to Fox News, General Sessions Court Judge Sam Benningfield signed a standing order in May that his jail would give inmates the option of sterilizing themselves in order to shave off 30 days of their sentence. The judge said that his decision would help inmates avoid being “burdened with children.”
“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,” Benningfield told WTVF. “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.”
The sterilization program is open to both sexes and is free of charge. Women can opt to have the Nexplanon contraceptive implant installed in their arm, and the birth control works for four years. Men can volunteer to receive vasectomies provided by the Tennesse Department of Health. Any inmate that participates will be given 30 Days Credit for use towards their jail time.
According to The Daily Beast, 32 women have received the implant and 38 men have signed up to be sterilized.
While the program seems to be a hit with inmates, the ACLU has expressed their disapproval.
“Offering a so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional. 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. Judges play an important role in our community – overseeing individuals’ childbearing capacity should not be part of that role,” the ACLU said.
District Attorney Bryant Dunaway also said that he was concerned with young male inmates opting to permanently remove their ability to have children in the future.
“It’s incomprehensible that an 18-year-old gets this done, it can’t get reversed and then that impacts the rest of their life,” Dunaway said. “Those decisions are personal in nature and I think that’s just something the court system should not encourage or mandate.”
The jail also offers inmates a course that educates inmates about the dangers of having children while on drugs. For inmates of either sex who complete the class, they are given two days credit towards their jail sentence.
“Hopefully while they’re staying here we rehabilitate them so they never come back,” Judge Bennington said.
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