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Alarming new program awards inmates 30 days credit if they agree to have a vasectomy or birth control implant

A Tennessee judge believes that offering permanent birth-control procedures to inmates will lessen the number of babies being born with withdrawal symptoms, otherwise known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Judge Benningfield admits that the controversial decision to offer a vasectomy or an implanted birth control device to inmates for reduced jail time can raise eyebrows among some people, but argues that the intended long-term effects will help society. He told CBS News, “I’m not on a crusade of any sort, I’m trying to help — trying to help people.”

Tennessee is a state that has seen an almost ten-fold increase in the number of babies being born with NAS. Judge Benningfield believes that for many of these cases, the parents are repeat offenders. Those who regularly engage in risky behaviors such as drugs and alcohol typically commit petty crimes which land them in jail. Women are notorious for becoming pregnant by having unprotected sex while under the influence of drugs. This, in turn, has resulted in a worrying amount of drug-addicted babies or infants who are intoxicated with alcohol when they are born.

The local health department of Tennessee has already seen the connection and has proposed an educational class for inmates at the county jail. These programs would focus on the risks of developmental abnormalities found in babies born to mothers who are addicted. This, however, is not enough of a stopgap for Judge Benningfield who wants a more lasting solution. He issued a new order which allowed Tennessee inmates to have an additional 30 days off of their sentence if they underwent a birth-control procedure, or a vasectomy for men and a contraceptive implant for women. The reduced jail time would be over and on top of the two day reduction inmates would receive after completing the educational class.


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