Judge Trades Vasectomies for Jail Time in Tennessee
By Leada Gore
A Tennessee judge is offering to cut 30 days off inmate sentences if they agree to undergo an elective birth control procedure.
The sentence reductions are open to both male and female inmate, NBC News reported. Eligible female inmates agree to receive a Nexplanon implant in the arm, providing up to three years of birth control. Male inmates must undergo a vasectomy. Both of the procedures are offered for free through the Tennessee Department of Health.
White County Judge Sam Benningfield, who instituted the program in May, said he hopes it leads to inmates taking more responsibility for their futures.
"I hope to encourage them to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, not to be burdened with children," Benningfield told CNN. "This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves."
Thirty-two women and 38 men have volunteered for the procedures since the program began. Inmates are also eligible for two days of credit towards their sentences if they take a class on the dangers of having children while under the influence of drugs.
The birth control offer has drawn criticism from District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway and civil liberties groups, who said the order was unconstitutional.
"Offering a so-called 'choice' between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional," said Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU in Tennessee. "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."
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