A CONTROVERSIAL program has been introduced in Tennessee that gives White County inmates the option to reduce their jail sentence by agreeing to undergo birth control procedures.

The program, which has raised many ethical concerns and been labelled "unconstitutional", was signed off by General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield on May 15 of this year.

Inmates can shave thirty days off their jail time if they choose to participate, with men undergoing a vasectomy and women receiving a Nexplanon implant in their arm that can help prevent pregnancies for up to three years.

Both procedures are provided free of charge by the Tennessee Department of Health.

Judge Benningfield told Tennessee news outlet WTVFthat he sees many cases of people coming in who are unable to support their children because of drug related issues and he hopes this program can help put an end to that cycle.

"I hope to encourage them to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, to not to be burdened with children. This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves," he said.

Inmates at White County can reduce their sentence by thirty days under the new program.
Inmates at White County can reduce their sentence by thirty days under the new program. news.com.au

Benningfield is aware that this approach may not be a popular one but he says if it can help just a few of the inmates it will be a victory.

"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."

Since the program began in May approximately 32 women have received the implant and 38 men have signed up to have a vasectomy.

While the procedure is completely voluntary, concerns have been raised over its legality.

District Attorney Bryant Dunaway is worried that the program is unethical and has reportedly told his office not to get involved in this procedure "in any way".

"Those decisions are personal in nature and I think that is something that the court system should not encourage or mandate," he told WTVF.

"It's comprehensible that an 18-year-old gets this done, it can't get reversed and then that impacts the rest of their life."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a statement condemning this "so-called 'choice'" and stating that it impedes on inmates' reproductive rights.

"Offering a so-called "choice" between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilisation 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," the statement read.

The ACLU also added that while judges certainly hold an important place in society, it is not the role of a judge to oversee "individuals' child-bearing capacity".

News Corp Australia


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