A federal appeals court ruled Thursday former White County inmates can pursue a lawsuit against a judge who offered ‘sterilization’ for shorter sentences.
The U.S. 6th District Court of Appeals reversed a prior decision that denied the inmates’ initial request, stating their release from jail “does not moot their claims.”
The lawsuit states Judge Sam Benningfield’s decision to offer vasectomies and other contraceptives to inmates was unconstitutional.
The three inmates listed in the Federal Court’s ruling – Christopher Sullivan, Nathan Haskell, and William Gentry – refused to undergo the procedure but challenged Benningfield’s order, arguing the offer discriminates on the basis of sex.
According to the Court’s ruling, the inmates argued that male inmates were disadvantaged as vasectomies are “potentially irreversible” compared to female inmates who opted for removable implants. Bennengfield’s defense states that fewer than five male inmates signed up for the procedure with none actually obtaining vasectomies, compared to 40 women who received contraceptive implants.
The decision remands the case and allows for further proceedings.