A Tennessee judge has given drug offenders a get-out-of-jail free card — as long as they agree to sterilize themselves.
OK — it’s not actually a get-out-of-jail free card, but a judge in the state is offering reduced sentenced for inmates who undergo the voluntary procedures, which are funded by the state.
In a state where the opioid epidemic has hit particularly hard, Judge Sam Benningfield says the majority of the cases he hears are drug-related, and he was sick it.
In May Benningfield issued his order: Inmates at the county jail can get 30 days shaved off their sentences if they agree to long-term contraceptive procedures — a vasectomy for men and something called a Nexplanon implant for women, which prevents birth for up to three years.
“I’m trying to help these folks begin to think about taking responsibility for their life and giving them a leg up — you know, when they get out of jail — to perhaps rehabilitate themselves and not be burdened again with unwanted children and all that comes with that,” Benningfield told CBS News.
The judge said his goal is to prevent babies from being born addicted to drugs.
As of July 21, 24 women had agree to the implant procedure and 38 men had signed up for a vasectomy.
The judge’s order has received a fair amount of pushback, including from the American Civil Liberties Union, which sees the order as unconstitutional.
As far as Bennington is concerned, the order is a deal that might result in fewer drug-addicted babies being born. He also points out that his order is not permanent: female implants last up to three years and men can have vasectomies reversed.
Bennington told CBS he felt blindsided by the criticism, but said he would reverse the order if a higher court deemed it problematic.