Female inmates sterilized in California without state approval

Posted at 2:06 PM, Jul 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-08 14:06:41-04

CORONA, Calif. — Doctors working for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without the required approvals, the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) is reporting.

According to KXTV, the report states that 148 women received tubal ligations that violated the state’s prison rules, and that state-paid doctors received $147,460 to perform the procedures.

All of the women who were subject to the procedure were signed up while they were pregnant in either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla. Former inmates and prison advocacy groups insist the women were coerced by members of the prisons’ medical staff.

One of those women is Crystal Nguyen, a former Valley State Prison inmate. She claims medical staff targeting inmates who had served multiple prison terms for sterilization.

“Do they think they’re animals, and they don’t want them to breed anymore?” Nguyen asked.

Christina Cordero, another former inmate at Valley State who was actually sterilized during the serving of a two-year sentence for auto theft, said medical staff also targeted women who had been pregnant multiple times.

As the mother of five, Cordero, who was pregnant during her prison term, said she fit that profile.

“He (the institution’s OB-GYN) suggested that I look into getting it (sterilization) done,” she said. “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.”

Cordero now says she wishes she had never gotten the surgery.

California was one of the leaders in forced sterilization throughout the 1900s, but outlawed such practices in 1979.

While some believe the sterilization procedures were about stopping repeat offenders from procreating, others suggested the motivation behind the unauthorized surgeries could have been different.

Daun Martin, a licensed psychologist, told the CIR that some women who are either drug addicts or homeless purposefully commit crimes when pregnant so they can receive better healthcare in prison.

Martin denied approving the surgeries, but at least 60 tubal ligations were done at Valley State while he was in charge, according to the state contracts database.