Judge pulls controversial order of reduced sentences for inmates who undergo birth control procedures

A judge in Tennessee has rescinded a controversial order that offered reduced sentences for inmates who underwent a birth control procedure and completed an educational course about addiction in newborns.

Judge Sam Benningfield in White County, Tennessee, initiated the program to combat the rise in infants born addicted to opioids, he told “CBS This Morning” last week. Benningfield said 80 to 90 percent of cases he encounters involve drug or alcohol abuse. The number of babies born with symptoms of withdrawal has increased 10-fold since the early 2000s.

Benningfield said he wanted to help prospective mothers and fathers from passing on addictions to their children, and conceived of the sentence reduction plan to provide an incentive for inmates.

Under the standing order issued in May, inmates could receive a two-day reduction in their sentence for completing a course provided by the Tennessee Department of Health on the dangers of neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. Male inmates who underwent a vasectomy procedure and women who got Nexplanon contraceptive implant in their arms — offered free of charge from the health department — would have an additional 30 days shaved off their sentences.

Participation in the program was voluntary. Vasectomies are reversible, but the results of the procedure can not always be guaranteed. Meanwhile, and the female implants last for three years. As of last week, 38 men and 24 women had participated.

CBS News

Critics slammed the order as unconstitutional, saying it amounted to coercive sterilization of inmates. The ACLU in Tennessee (ACLU-TN) said the program “amounted to the government coercing people not to procreate” in a statement.

In a court document released Thursday, Benningfield rescinded the original order, writing that the health department had told the court it would no longer offer its services free of…

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