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Jail Offers Reduced Time For Inmates Who Get Sterilized (Video)

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The White County, Tennessee, jail is offering its inmates 30 days credit if they agree to be sterilized (video below).

General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield signed a court order on May 15 for the unusual offer that extends to all inmates, male and female, notes WTVF.

The Tennessee Department of Health is offering men free vasectomies, while women can get a free Nexplanon implant to stop them from having children for four years.

A July 19 report from WTVF noted 70 inmates have accepted the offer.

Benningfield told the news station that he is trying to free the inmates from the burden of children.

"I hope to encourage them to at some point finally take personal responsibility, and to give them a chance, when they do get out, not to be burdened again with additional children," he said. "This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves."

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County jails don't typically house dangerous inmates who are typically sent to state or federal prisons. Inmates in county jails are usually serving time for misdemeanors or are awaiting their trial.

District Attorney Bryant Dunaway is worried that the judge's program may be illegal and unethical.

"I think it's something that those decisions are personal in nature, and I think that's something the court system should not encourage, nor mandate," he said. "I instructed my staff not to be involved in this type of arrangement in any way."

The ACLU also opposed the voluntary sterilization in a statement, according to NBC News.

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"Offering a so-called 'choice' between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional," said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-Tennessee executive director. "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 Guardian reported in 2013 that doctors with contracts with California prisons sterilized almost 150 female prisoners from 2006 to 2010 without getting state approval.

The state paid doctors $147,460 in taxpayer money from 1997 to 2010 to perform tubal ligations on women, per a database of contracted medical services.

One anonymous OB-GYN doctor defended the sterilizations: "Over a 10-year period, that isn't a huge amount of money compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children -- as they procreated more."

While the doctors were willing to take the public's money, they didn't want their names made public, The Guardian noted: "Intense secrecy governs these surgeries. Strict state and federal laws protect patient privacy. Prison attorneys fought to deny access to key documents and records, including those not medically related."

According to prison advocates and former inmates, prison medical staff would actually push women into getting the life-altering surgeries.

Sources: WTVF, The Guardian, NBC News / Photo Credit: Markus Grossalber/Flickr, aesop/Flickr, Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia Commons

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