Elise B. Adams


In May 2017, a Tennessee judge issued a standing order allowing inmates to receive thirty days’ jail credit in exchange for undergoing a voluntary sterilization procedure. Although the order was ultimately rescinded, this Article will address the constitutional and ethical concerns that a district court would have considered had the order not been rescinded. While inmates can always choose to waive their constitutional rights, the coercive nature of prisons—explained in the unconstitutional conditions doctrine—may compromise a prisoner’s ability to provide voluntary consent. The constitutionality of the order largely depends on the level of scrutiny a court applies. Regardless of the order’s constitutionality, the adverse ethical and social ramifications outweigh any potential benefits that could come from such an order. This order would also give too much power to state governments over an individual’s reproductive freedoms. Instead of automatically reducing an inmate’s sentence after undergoing a sterilization procedure, drug offenders should have the opportunity to choose from several different birth control options that could possibly lead to a reduced sentence.

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