In 2017, three inmates in White County, Tennessee sued White County General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield, alleging a variety of constitutional violations arising from a coervice sterilization-for-sentencing-credits program instituted in the county jail. Among other things, the inmates’ lawsuit sought injunctive relief that would forever terminate White County’s sterilization program.
On April 4, 2019, in a decision reversing the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit officially ruled that sterilization-for-sentencing-credits arrangements like the one instituted by White County Judge Sam Benningfield are unconstitutional. “Requiring inmates to waive a fundamental right to obtain a government benefit impermissibly burdens that right” in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court’s opinion reads.
“This decision sends a clear, important message that should never have been necessary in the first place: Inmate sterilization is illegal and unconstitutional,” Daniel Horwitz, the inmates’ lawyer, said in a statement to The Tennessean on the ruling.
Daniel Horwitz is constitutional lawyer based in Nashville, Tennessee. If you would like to purchase a consultation from Horwitz, you can do so using the following form: