County Fights Future Crime, ACLU Calls It Unconstitutional

It is a well-known fact that if you come from a family that has a history of breaking the law, you have a better chance of ending up in jail than someone that does not have that family background. So following that line of thinking, Officials in White County, Tennessee, came up with an idea to help reduce jail crowding and future crime at the same time. They are giving inmates the option of having 30 days cut from their sentences if they voluntarily agree to have a vasectomy or birth control implant.

Judge Sam Benningfield, who signed the order in May, said he made the decision to ensure that inmates would not be “burdened with children,” according to WTVFThe program is open to both sexes and anyone can volunteer to participate, which is free of charge. Women are given a Nexplanon contraceptive implant, which works for up to four years, in their arm. The Tennessee Department of Health will provide vasectomies for men who volunteer for the program. Those who participate will receive 30 days of credit toward their jail time.

So far, 32 women have received the implant, while 38 men are waiting for a vasectomy, The Daily Beast reported. The Judge said his standing order is meant to help inmates. 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.” But like any other new solution to an old problem, others think the program is possibly illegal.

District Attorney Bryant Dunaway told the news station that Benningfield’s order was “concerning” to him, and that his office didn’t support the decision. Then he added an erroneous statement about the Judge’s order saying, “It’s comprehensible that an 18-year-old gets this done, it can’t get reversed and then that impacts the rest of their life.” When in fact, the procedure can be reversed at a future time if the person so desires.

Of course, the ACLU was quick to jump in on the side of the District Attorney and has reportedly released a statement calling the program “unconstitutional: 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.”

County inmates are also being given two days’ worth of credit toward their jail time if they complete a state-run neonatal education program, the purpose of which is to teach inmates about the dangers of having a child while on drugs.

R.L. Grimes

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