TN Judge Reprimanded for Vasectomy Order

Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct says Judge Sam Benningfield was wrong to reduce inmates’ sentences if they agreed to vasectomies or other forms of birth control.

A Tennessee judge who agreed to shave time off inmates’ sentences if they agreed to receive vasectomies or other forms of birth control was publicly reprimanded by Tennessee judicial regulators, The Tennessean reports. In its letter of reprimand, the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct suggested White County judge Sam Benningfield acted in a way that threatened public confidence in the judicial system. “You have acknowledged that even though [you] were trying to accomplish a worthy goal in preventing the birth of substance addicted babies by the entry of your order of May 15, 2017, you now realize that this order could unduly coerce inmates into undergoing a surgical procedure which would cause at least a temporary sterilization, and it was therefore improper,” the letter states.

Female inmates who received an implant and male inmates who underwent vasectomies received a 30-day jail credit. Benningfield announced the deal in May. After substantial public scrutiny, Benningfield rescinded it in July. Alex Friedmann, a former inmate who is now managing editor of Prison Legal News, filed a complaint against Benningfield. “Prisoners are a vulnerable population who are especially susceptible to such coercive incentives because they want to return to their families and are at risk of losing their jobs and housing the longer they are incarcerated,” Friedmann said. A federal lawsuit accused Benningfield of acting with White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe to carry out a “modern day eugenics scheme.” Forty-two men agreed to the order.