A Tennessee judge is redefining what it means for convicts to pay their debt to society: Go under the knife in White County to get a vasectomy or a birth control implant, and prisoners can get 30-days off their sentence. "Hopefully while they're staying here we rehabilitate them so they never come back," Judge Sam Benningfield explained to a local news crew.
But what does sterilization have to do with rehabilitation? Absolutely nothing.
It's cruel, it's unusual, and it literally meets the clinical definition of eugenics.
Down on their luck, 70 inmates (32 women and 38 men) have taken the plea deal. They'll get credit toward their sentence and a permanent reminder courtesy of county government that, because of their crime, they're sub-humans not fit to have a family.
In short, society finds them undesirable and would prefer if they not reproduce. Upon their release, convicts won't be burdened with unwanted children and heck, given enough time, perhaps little White County can weed out criminal imbeciles from the gene pool.
Except no, human nature doesn't work that way and nothing good has come from eugenics. The United States has its own uncomfortable and not too distant history with the practice. A total of 32 states enforced eugenics laws by 1935 and California didn't ban the practice of prison sterilization until 2014.
It's no exaggeration to say that the horrific practice has wiped away generations, snuffing out potential families ? especially from Asian, black, and Hispanic communities.
But in the backwoods of White County, Benningfield is more modest than say, a Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. He's not trying to wipe away three generations of imbeciles. "If you reach two or three people," he explains, "maybe that's two or three kids not being born under the influence of drugs."
Put another way, he seems to believe sterilization solves all problems?no man, no problem.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.