Tennessee inmates get reduced sentences for birth control

SPARTA, Tenn. (WATE) – A judge in middle Tennessee has an unorthodox approach to cracking down on the drug epidemic.

General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield signed an order in May in White County. Any inmate that signs up for a free vasectomy can get an entire month taken off their sentence.

Benningfield says he hopes the program will prevent inmates from having children while under the influence of drugs once they are released.

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

Female inmates can also participate in the program. They can sign up to get a contraceptive implant that works for four years.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee issued a statement against the order:

“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.”

So far, 32 women have received the implant and 38 men are on the waiting list for a vasectomy.

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