Thursday, November 23, 2017
The Tennessee Court of Judicial Conduct has reprimanded a general sessions court judge in part for two orders that he had entered.
The orders granted two days of credit for time served to inmates who took a state course called the Neonatal Syndrome Education Program.
If a female inmate got a free nexplanon implant, she got another 30 days off the sentence. If a male inmate got a free vasectomy. that also drew a 30-day sentence reduction.
While the reprimand noted that he was seeking to promote what he viewed as the "worthy goal" of preventing the birth of addicted babies, it was nonetheless "unduly coercive."
WSXM.com reported on the orders.
Mary Cantrell was released from the White County Jail two days ago. She said, inside, she was offered a shorter sentence if she agreed to be surgically implanted with a birth control called Nexplanon.
"When we come in the inmates inside the jail was telling us about there was a new birth control thing for women," Cantrell told News 4 outside of the jail.
Judge Benningfield is behind the program. His order signed in May would knock 30 days off a jail sentence for men who agreed to a vasectomy and women who got the implant.
Inmates who took a course from the Tennessee Department of Health Neonatal Syndrome Education Program would have his or her sentence reduced by two days.
Cantrell declined to get the implant, but opted to take course. When she got to the classroom, she said Benningfield was there apologizing.
"[He said] he didn't mean it. He wasn't trying to force us or coerce us into getting the birth control," Cantrell said. "That he was sorry. That he didn't mean to say that he didn't mean to make us feel like that we shouldn't have children, that he just wanted us to wait until we could support them better and use better judgment.”
This week, under nationwide scrutiny, Benningfield filed a ruling rescinding the program.