Also see: "PRISONS: Female inmates sterilized in California without approval" The Press-Enterprise, July 8, 2013: " ... 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?' ... The allegations echo those made nearly a half-century ago, when forced sterilizations of prisoners, the mentally ill and the poor were commonplace in California. State lawmakers officially banned such practices in 1979. ... ”
A new report from the Center Of Investigative Reporting has found that nearly 150 female inmates were sterilized without state approval between 2006 and 2010.
According to the report, at least 148 female inmates received tubal ligations from state doctors during that five year period. Interviews and state documents indicate that another 100 prisoners could have received the procedure between 2006 and 1997.
The female prisoners were reportedly coerced into having the procedure. Sabee reports that women were signed up for the surgery while they were pregnant. The women, who were housed at the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, were reportedly targeted if officials found that they were at risk of returning to prison.
Christina Cordero, a former inmate at Valley State Prison, said: “As soon as [the institution's OB-GYN Dr. James Heinrich] 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. He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it … Today, I wish I would have never had it done.”
Valley State OB-GYN, Dr. James Heinrich, denied pressuring any inmates to get the procedure. The 69-year-old physician said that he was surprised to learn that contract doctors charged for the procedure but added that the $147,460 total was small compared to the money taxpayers would have spent on welfare for more unwanted children.
Heinrich said: “Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”
The CIR interviewed several inmates who felt that they were either pressured into being sterilized or misinformed about the procedure. Nikki Montano, 42, who was at Valley State in 2008, said: “I figured that’s just what happens in prison – that that’s the best kind of doctor you’re going get,” Montano said. “He never told me nothing about nothing.”