A judge in Tennessee is giving inmates a unique way to reduce their sentences: Have a vasectomy.
The program was issued in May after Judge Sam Benningfield signed a standing order, which permitted inmates to have their sentences shortened by 30 days in exchange for the sterilizing procedure.
Female inmates can also get the birth control implant Nexplanon, which prevents pregnancy for four years, for the same sentence reduction.
The program is voluntary. However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has condemned the program, calling it “unconstitutional.”
“Offering a so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional,” Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director, said in a statement. “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.”
But Benningfield, who declined to speak to NBC News, told News Channel 5 that he is trying to encourage “personal responsibility” among inmates, who will not “be burdened with children” when they are released.
“This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves,” Benningfield told the station.
Since the program began, 32 women have received the birth control implant and 38 men have agreed to have a vasectomy, News Channel 5 reported. It was not immediately clear how many men have undergone the surgery.
Both options are provided free-of-charge to the inmates, who can also earn an additional two days off their sentences for completing a Tennessee Department of Health Neonatal Syndrome Education Program.
“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,” Benningfield said.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Kalhan Rosenblatt