WHITE COUNTY, Tenn. (WSVN) — Officials in one Tennessee county are giving inmates the option of ending their jail sentence early if they agree to have a vasectomy or birth control implant, Fox News reports.
Judge Sam Benningfield signed the standing order, telling WTVF he made the decision to ensure inmates would not be “burdened with children.”
The program allows for male and female inmates to volunteer to participate at no charge. Women are given a Nexplanon contraceptive implant, which works up to four years, in their arm. Male inmates who volunteer will get vasectomies provided by the Tennessee Department of Health.
Those who participate will receive 30 days of credit toward their jail time. So far, 32 women have received the implant, while 38 men have agreed to vasectomies, according to Fox News.
“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 not everyone agrees. District Attorney Bryant Dunaway told the station that his office did not support the program.
“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,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the move “unconstitutional” in a statement:
“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.”
Inmates can also get two days’ worth of credit toward their jail time if they complete a neonatal education program, which warns about the dangers of having a child while on drugs.
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