Prison sterilization audit ‘shocks the conscience’

Courtney Hooks, campaign and communications director of Justice Now (right), testifies at an Aug. 13, 2013, Public Safety Committee hearing in Sacramento on “Female Inmate Sterilization,” while staff attorney Nora Wilson looks on. — Credit: R. W. DELLINGER

California’s audit report “Sterilization of Female Inmates,” which was released June 19, “shocks the conscience” with systemic failures by the federal receiver appointed to oversee health care in the state’s prisons, according to Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Redondo Beach).

“This report documents shocking systemic failure by the Federal Receiver to ensure medical sterilization procedures were done with consent and appropriately reviewed as required by state law,” Lieu said in a statement. “Of the 144 cases of female sterilizations, 143 of them failed to receive the state mandated review by two committees composed of high-level prison medical staff…. These systemic failures are unacceptable for a procedure that is life-changing and irreversible.”

In the report, state auditor Elaine Howle said of the 144 bilateral tubal ligation cases examined, 39 were performed “following deficiencies in the informed consent process.” And in 27 cases, the inmate’s doctor had not signed the required consent form.

These sterilizations were performed between mid-2005 and mid-2013. They were done in hospitals near two women’s prisons — the California Institution for Women in Corona and Valley Institution for Women in Chowchilla, which is now a men’s prison. Still, prison officials were responsible for making sure that written consent was documented.

Corey Johnson of the Center for Investigative Reporting broke the story, which went viral in social as well as traditional media, last July. He told The Tidings, “I had no idea of the scale and scope of California’s [sterilization] program,” which raised the specter of the Golden State continuing its well-documented history of eugenics.

From 1909 to the 1960s, an estimated 20,000 Californians — not only prisoners but so-called mentally “defectives,” certain minorities and immigrants, plus even the indigent on occasion — were forcibly sterilized.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has sponsored legislation, passed by the state senate in May, which would keep prisons and county jails from sterilizing inmates for the purpose of birth control.

“This audit demonstrates there is a systemic problem, and implicates the entire culture,” Jackson told The Los Angeles Times. “The right to have a family is a fundamental right that each of us has. Many of these women are first-time offenders and already have families.”

The Tidings will present a detailed reaction to the state audit’s report in a future issue.     


Voices

Easter and beyond

Anne Hansen

We move quickly from our major religious holidays each year. It’s not intentional. Life hurries along and as soon as the sun sets on one holiday the next is being touted by merchants looking to sell us whatever the next big day brings. To remain in the spirit of the religious holiday — in this case Easter — takes deliberate intention.

The Holy Father visits the Holy Land

Events

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April 25, 2015

  • Saturday, April 25

    Super Groovy 5K Run/Walk, 8 a.m., Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys. Sponsored by St. Euphrasia School, this year’s “Super Groovy” theme celebrates the school’s 50th anniversary of its founding in 1964 and serves as a tribute to that nostalgic era of peace and love — the 60’s. At the finish line, all runners and walkers will be puffed with clouds of psychodelic color. Registration $25-$40. For more information, contact Susie Sempelsz, (818) 488-1598. info@knights5k.org.

    5th Annual Car Show, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Junipero Serra High School, 14830 S Van Ness Ave., Gardena. Featuring classics, hot rods, and muscle cars as well as food, music, vendors and raffles. (310) 324-6675. la-serrahs.org.

    Challenge Weekend for Men, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and April 26, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Povorello Retreat House, 1519 Woodworth St., San Fernando. Presented by St. John Eudes and Our Lady of Grace Men’s Fellowships. Men will not board overnight; lunch is provided both days. $90 or donation. Register at knowingweekend.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Fred Perez, (818) 749-5126.

    First Annual Sacred Heart High School Gala, 5 p.m., Los Angeles City College New Student Activities Center, 855 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Proceeds from the event, themed “United to Empower,” will benefit the Comet Scholarship Fund.



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