Calif. Prison System Accused Of Sterilizing Female Inmates

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Nearly 148 women in two California prisons were sterilized by doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from 2006 to 2010, The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) reports.

The CIR also reports that 100 more may have been sterilized dating back to the 1990s. State doctors were allegedly paid $147,460 to perform the procedure from 1997 to 2010. The women were signed up for the procedure while they were pregnant and housed at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla. Chowchilla is now a men’s prison.

Former inmates and prison advocates claim the medical staff pressured the women–especially those who were perceived to be repeat offenders.

Here is more from the CIR:

Crystal Nguyen, a former Valley State Prison inmate who worked in the prison’s infirmary during 2007, said she often overheard medical staff asking inmates who had served multiple prison terms to agree to be sterilized.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s not right,’ ” Nguyen, 28, said. “Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore?”

One former Valley State inmate who gave birth to a son in October 2006 said the institution’s OB-GYN, Dr. James Heinrich, repeatedly pressured her to agree to a tubal ligation.

“As soon as he found out that I had five kids, he suggested that I look into getting it done. The closer I got to my due date, the more he talked about it,” said Christina Cordero, 34, who spent two years in prison for auto theft. “He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it.”

Cordero, released in 2008 and now living in Upland, Calif., agreed, but she says, “today, I wish I would have never had it done.”

Nearly a half-century ago, it was common practice to sterilize women in California prisons until 1979 when lawmakers outlawed the practice.

For a full report of the sterilization allegations, go to The Center for Investigative Reporting.

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