Inmates at Judge Sam Benningfield‘s courtroom in White County, Tennessee get a deal. Take it, and they’ll get 30 days taken their off sentence. The catch: They must stop having kids. The local attorney general isn’t a fan, though, and the American Civil Liberties Union also opposes this.
Benningfield said he just trying to do good for inmates.
“I hope to encourage them to finally take personal responsibility and to give them a chance so when they do get out, not to be burdened with additional children,” he told News Channel 5 in a Wednesday report. “This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves.”
He started the voluntary program in a standing order on May 15, after, he said, talking with officials at the Tennessee Department of Health. Benningfield said he came up with this deal because he had repeat offenders–drug users–who were unemployed or couldn’t pay child support.
Men can get vasectomies. Women can get a Nexplananon implant in their arm. Either way, inmates receive 30 days credit if they accept the deal. 32 women reportedly have gotten the birth control, while 38 men wait for their surgery.
13th Judicial District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway opposes Benningfield’s order. He has told his office not to participate.
“Those decisions are personal in nature, and I think that’s something that the court system should not encourage or mandate.”
ACLU-TN’s Hedy Weinberg also called the program “unconstitutional.” She doesn’t think this program is voluntary in any meaningful sense of the word. Her statement, obtained by LawNewz.com:
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.
[Screengrab of Benningfield via News Channel 5]