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Tennessee Jail Practiced Modern Eugenics on Inmates
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birth control implant

Summary: A Middle Tennessee jail was offering birth control services to male and female inmates for 30 days off their sentence.

A federal lawsuit alleges that a Tennessee jail traded birth control procedures for 30 days off an inmate’s sentence. The controversial practice is referred to as a modern day eugenics scheme in the lawsuit filed by advocacy lawyers of a pro bono legal group of a national GPS monitoring company.


President and CEO Mike Donovan of Nexus Services Inc. said, “This case is nothing more than a modern day eugenics scheme.” Donovan claims that Judge Sam Benningfield, White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe, and his staff were “playing God.”

The lawsuit alleges that Shoupe was trying to “sterilize” as many inmates as possible by offering up a deal. Inmates could get 30 days taken off their sentence if they went in for a birth control procedure that was in violation of their constitutional rights. A Nexus lawyer explains that 42 men received vasectomies and 35 women got birth control implants.

One inmate, Christel Ward, agreed to get the implant but she never received time off her sentence. Now that she is out of jail, it will cost $250 to have the implant removed. The lawsuit wants the county program declared unconstitutional and Ward’s implant to be removed at no cost to her.

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White County in middle Tennessee is south of Cookeville with a population of 26,000 people. The most common crimes involve theft and drugs with 1,500 cases filed each year. Residents of the area say there isn’t a family in town that hasn’t been affected by opiates.

Benningfield says he was approached by state health department to present a two-day class on the effects of drugs on fetuses. He started off by giving two days off a sentence for those that agreed to attend the class. To get more inmates interested in the class, he announced a standing offer in May for inmates to get out of jail faster in order to save the “judicial economy and the administration of justice.” This meant female inmates would get the birth control arm implant Nexplanon for free and men would get a vasectomy for free. He told reporters, “Hopefully while they’re staying here we rehabilitate them so they never come back.” No male ended up receiving a vasectomy.

The ACLU of Tennessee calls the practice a coercive and unconstitutional program. They said, “Offering a so-called ‘choice’ between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional.” The judge in this program imposed “an intrusive medical procedure on individuals who are not in a position to reject it.”

The program ran for two months before Judge Benningfield rescinded the order, claiming the Tennessee Department of Health would not offer free birth control services any longer.

The lawsuit lists Benningfield, Shoupe, White County, and Donna Daniels, a sheriff’s deputy, as defendants. Judge Benningfield only handles misdemeanor crimes with a maximum sentence of just under one year. He justified his order by stating, “It occurred to me that many of the same women I had incarcerated were the very same from whom I was having to remove their children in my role as the juvenile judge because they were born addicted to drugs.”

Do you think the program is unconstitutional? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about jail sentence deals, read these articles:




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