State lawmakers pass bill protecting female inmates from prison doctors

By Jeff Gonzales

State lawmakers sought last week to guard California’s female prison population from penitentiary doctors who treated them like guinea pigs.

On August 19, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill that would end “forced or coerced sterilizations” in California prisons. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), came about as a result of coverage last year by The Center for Investigative Reporting.

CIR’s investigation found “[d]octors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals.”

Department spokesman Jeffrey Callison told SN&R via email that the bill “would prohibit sterilization for the purpose of birth control, and prohibit any means of sterilization of an inmate except when required for the immediate preservation of life.”

If signed by the governor, the bill would also add a section to the penal code requiring a secondary doctor outside of the corrections facility to consult with the patient and ensure she’s made aware of the permanence of the surgery.

Senate Bill 1135 was authored in “response to media reports from the Center for Investigative Reporting” regarding the “unlawful and coercive sterilization of female inmates at the Central California Women’s Facility and Valley State Prison for Women,” states a release from Sen. Jackson’s office.

S.B. 1135 had numerous co-authors, including the Legislative Women’s Caucus and the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee.

Gov. Jerry Brown has 30 days from the bill’s passage to sign it into law.

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