Last week, news broke of White County General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield’s wildly unconstitutional standing order that White County inmates who declined to submit to sterilization would receive an additional 30 days in jail. In an order dated July 26, 2017, Judge Benningfield has formally rescinded his prior order with the caveat that he will still be handing out a eugenics discount to anyone who “demonstrate[s] to the court their desire to improve their situations” by being sterilized.
Even as partially rescinded, however, Judge Benningfield’s policy of determining the length of an inmate’s sentence based on whether the inmate has agreed to submit to sterilization remains illegal. As previously explained:
In America, reproductive freedom is a fundamental constitutional right, and the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution forbids the government from treating people differently based on whether or not they choose to exercise their right to reproductive freedom. Tennessee’s criminal code also contains several specifically-designated mitigating factors and enhancement factors that judges are permitted to consider during sentencing. Whether a defendant has submitted to sterilization is not among them.
White County’s backdoor eugenics program needs to be terminated in its entirety. The program is a moral outrage and a blight on the entire legal profession. Nobody—and certainly no member of the Bar—should tolerate it. If Judge Benningfield will not resign his office, he should be removed.