California Female Prisoners Sterilized

By Prison Legal News

More than 130 female prisoners at two California facilities were sterilized over a four-year period without required state approval, and some of the women have claimed they were pressured, harassed and even tricked into signing forms agreeing to the sterilizations. The procedure, known as tubal ligation, involves severing a woman’s fallopian tubes to prevent eggs from reaching the uterus; the operation requires general anesthesia and is considered permanent.

The surgeries were performed from 2006 to 2010 at outside medical facilities by doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for California Correctional Health Care Services – the federal court-appointed receiver over CDCR medical care – said the procedures violated state regulations that restrict tubal ligations not deemed medically necessary. They did not, however, violate state law.

According to public records, doctors were paid $147,460 to perform the sterilizations on female prisoners from the California Institution for Women and Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), which first reported the story on July 7, 2013, initially identified 148 prisoners who were sterilized from 2006 to 2010, but that number was later revised downward to 132 after a further review indicated some of the women had been counted twice. “Perhaps 100 more” prisoners were reportedly sterilized between 1997 and 2006.

Although they signed consent forms, several of the women complained they were pressured into agreeing to the procedures by medical staff and doctors, especially the OB-GYN at Valley State Prison, Dr. James Heinrich.

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Northampton County, PA: Three-Pronged Strategy to Combat Recidivism

By Christopher Zoukis 

Not pleased with their perpetual need to keep expanding their prison’s capacity, local leaders and officials in Northampton County, Pennsylvania have been searching for a comprehensive strategy to reduce the county’s high levels of recidivism.  In 2012, the recidivism rate for inmates being released from Northampton County Prison was 58 percent, a full 18 points over the national average.   Image courtesy

Encouragement has come from an earlier initiative in the county, contracting with Community Education Centers to provide alcohol treatment programs and parenting classes, which demonstrated the success of initiatives of this sort, cutting the rate of recidivism in half for those inmates who completed the program.  For over a year, a working party has been looking into further measures to build on this success.

In March, the final report, authored by the county’s re-entry coordinator Laura Savenelli, was presented to prison officials, local community leaders, and mental health providers at a re-entry summit in Bethlehem, PA.  The group identified three key problems:

  • ·         Seventy percent of inmates have substance abuse issues, which need to be addressed.
  • ·         Many prisoners have mental health problems, with more than 20 percent taking psychotropic medication.
  • ·         There is a lack of classroom space for GED classes, and a need for better vocational training.

As in almost all prisons and jails, a large majority of Northampton County Prison’s inmates, almost three-quarters, have substance abuse issues.  For many non-violent offenders, drug treatment is a far more effective response than incarceration.  One proposal, therefore, is to establish a specific drug court to handle these cases, and to decide who would be better served by treatment than a term of incarceration.

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