Thursday, July 27, 2017

Eugenics in Tennessee

In my latest piece, I write for The Marshall Project about the history of incarceration and sterilization, of course just scratching the surface in the short commentary.
Under no circumstances should the courts use their power to shape the reproductive decisions of individuals. But sadly, for over a century, attitudes about individuals convicted of crimes have made incarcerated men and women targets of such efforts.
Whether Benningfield knows it or not, his policy follows a long history of eugenic practices in this country. Eugenics is a pseudo-science which holds that the quality of humanity can be improved over generations through practices that encourage individuals with “desirable traits” to reproduce and discourage the “unfit” from doing so. There's a sense that eugenics is confined to a long-ago history, but coercive eugenic practices crop up constantly in the American criminal legal system.
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