Female Inmates Sterilized in California Prisons Without Approval

Corey G. Johnson, The Sacramento Bee, July 7, 2013

Doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals, the Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

At least 148 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years–and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews.

From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform the procedure, according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners.

The women were signed up for the surgery while they were pregnant and housed at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, which is now a men’s prison.

Former inmates and prisoner advocates maintain that prison medical staff coerced the women, targeting those deemed likely to return to prison in the future.

Crystal Nguyen, a former Valley State Prison inmate who worked in the prison’s infirmary during 2007, said she often overheard medical staff asking inmates who had served multiple prison terms to agree to be sterilized.


One former Valley State inmate who gave birth to a son in October 2006 said the institution’s OB-GYN, Dr. James Heinrich, repeatedly pressured her to agree to a tubal ligation.

“As soon as he found out that I had five kids, he suggested that I look into getting it done. The closer I got to my due date, the more he talked about it,” said Christina Cordero, 34, who spent two years in prison for auto theft. “He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it.”

Cordero, released in 2008 and now living in Upland, agreed to the procedure. “Today,” she said, “I wish I would have never had it done.”

The allegations echo those made nearly a half-century ago, when forced sterilizations of prisoners, the mentally ill and the poor were commonplace in California. State lawmakers officially banned such practices in 1979.

In an interview with CIR, Heinrich said he provided an important service to poor women who faced health risks in future pregnancies because of past Caesarean sections. The 69-year-old Bay Area physician denied pressuring anyone and expressed surprise that local contract doctors had charged for the surgeries. He described the $147,460 total as minimal.

“Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money,” Heinrich said, “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children–as they procreated more.”

The top medical manager at Valley State Prison from 2005 to 2008 characterized the surgeries as an empowerment issue for female inmates, providing them the same options as women on the outside. Daun Martin, a licensed psychologist, also claimed that some pregnant women, particularly those on drugs or who were homeless, would commit crimes so they could return to prison for better health care.

“Do I criticize those women for manipulating the system because they’re pregnant? Absolutely not,” said Martin, 73. “But I don’t think it should happen. And I’d like to find ways to decrease that.”


Federal and state laws ban inmate sterilizations if federal funds are used, reflecting concerns that prisoners might feel pressured to comply. California used state funds instead, but since 1994 the procedure has required approval from top medical officials in Sacramento on a case-by-case basis.

Yet no tubal ligation requests have come before the health care committee responsible for approving such restricted surgeries, said Dr. Ricki Barnett, who tracks medical services and costs for the California Prison Health Care Receivership Corp.


Lawsuits, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and public outrage over eugenics and similar sterilization abuses in Alabama and New York spawned new requirements in the 1970s for doctors to fully inform patients.

Since then, it’s been illegal to pressure anyone to be sterilized or ask for consent during labor or childbirth.


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  • bigone4u

    Coercion of sterilization has no place in a free society, but the principle of requiring sterilization in exchange for welfare benefits deserves widespread consideration. The idea that primarily black and Hispanic women can breed indiscriminately, end up with five or more children, and then expect white taxpayers to foot the bill is nonsense. And what about male prisoners, who supplied the sperm for these women. Should they not be required to work or else face snipping?

    • All black males of convicted of a violent felony should be snipped — to be honest they ought to be castrated but that would never get support.
      All welfare women with children who have another child should be sterilized.

    • Male “prisoners” per se didn’t do the work, because male and female inmates are housed at separate institutions. Female inmates do get pregnant while incarcerated, but it is the male guards and staff who do this.

  • David Ashton

    Wait for the outcry: “Nazi Eugenics – the Holocaust comes to America!”

    • The__Bobster

      In the early years of the twentieth century, attitudes to the IQ assumed a political dimension. The Liberal-Left generally approved of the IQ and research showing its importance. One of the most salient issues was the discovery that intelligent women were having relatively few children and the inference that was drawn from this that the IQ of the population was deteriorating. In many countries eugenics societies were established to promote ways to reverse this.

      The principal supporters of eugenics came from the Liberal-Left. In Britain they included H.G. Wells, Sidney and Beatrice Webb and George Bernard Shaw. The programs they advocated were the provision of financial incentives for those with high IQs to have more children, designated positive eugenics, and measures to reduce the numbers of children of those with low IQs, designated negative eugenics.

      In the second half of the twentieth century, Liberal-Left opinion turned against the IQ.

      • Joseph Bryant

        Yes, this used to be a progressive position with conservatives opposed, usually in the name of religion. Funny how the tables have turned.

      • MadMike

        The average IQ rate is inversely proportional the number of Democrats.

      • David Ashton

        Even Marxists like J.B.S. Haldane who once said his views on this were midway between those of Hitler and the Pope! See my reply to Martel on another thread.

      • AllSeeingEyeSpy

        “In the second half of the twentieth century, Liberal-Left opinion turned against the IQ”.

        Then it was considered smart, now even the word eugenics is considered evil, all else be damned. Leftist aren’t about science, doing what’s right, or anything, other than bowing to peer pressure from those over them. They’ve turned us all into leftist.

      • Stentorian_Commentator

        I think Steve Sailer has summarized the cognitive dissonance of the left well. When it comes to pointing out that the ranges of black and hispanic IQs are well below those of average whites (whose IQs are below those of Ashkenazic Jews and Northeast Asians), the left yells ray-cism, but then they’ll claim that lower IQs in the south (likely influenced by the higher black proportions), means right wingers or southerner are stoopid, har, har, har.

    • AllSeeingEyeSpy

      148 women have had their rights violated, although, without a doubt, or there is no doubt, all 148 women chose to have this procedure. Another made up crime committed by white and to be blamed on all whites or their white society, meanwhile this same evil country is taking the rights away from and degrading all white. This article just distracts us from reality.

  • Manaphy

    “Doctor says procedures saved taxpayers from future welfare burdens”

    It seems that we aren’t dealing with a bunch of Democrats and/or “Anti-Racists” over here.

  • dave

    good, now do it on the outside. start with the welfare mothers and leetches.

  • Rick Brooks

    I’d say it’s been money well spent.

  • OlderWoman

    Wish all the immigrants and blacks were sterilized. This would take care of our over population.

    • The__Bobster

      Deportation would be a quicker solution.

    • Sylvia McKay

      Probably the least Christian statement of the day

  • The__Bobster

    In Maryland and NY, they should sterilize the female guards who are breeding with the inmates.

  • JohnEngelman

    I say after Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

    • You beat me to it, but I’d like to add that it’s fascinating that brood-sow inmates have the right to continue pumping out additional juvenile delinquents, while California taxpayers appear to have no rights whatever.

      • JohnEngelman

        Roe v. Wade has been credited for the fact that the rate of violent crime has declined since 1991.

        The broad-sows of whom you speak are most likely to give birth to juvenile delinquents, as you say. They are also most likely to have abortions.

        We should replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children with free abortion on demand. Think of all the crimes a single abortion prevents. Think of all the money it saves in welfare expense and the criminal justice system.

        • You’re preaching to the choir here, John. I’ve been pro-abortion my whole adult life. As a man, I’ve also been pro-keeping-my-pants-on whenever I had any doubts at all about a gal, also my whole adult life. Responsibility is not so difficult to learn, unless society collectively decides to allow one to turn a safety net into a hammock. They never learned responsibility because what used to be our own courts have largely insulated them from the consequences of their own behavior.

          Christina Cordero, quoted in the article already has five kids at the age of 34, did two years in the can for car theft, and wishes she hadn’t had her tubes tied. Would she really like more at her age, on parole? If so, she really doesn’t “get it”. A responsible mother wouldn’t have been stealing cars in the first place.

          • dd121

            The number I heard was that 80% of the abortions are negroes. What’s not to like?

          • No suprises here. Most white people are able to figure out how birth-control works.

    • David Ashton

      See my reply to Martel on another thread.

  • OhWow

    These guys are heroes!

  • robinbishop34

    …”characterized the surgeries as an empowerment issue for female inmates”…

    I just thought this was funny.

  • Magician

    Forcefully handicap the specific men who will clearly be incapable of supporting a family as well

    • Brian

      IMHO, the salvation of America may be in severe new Welfare entitlement rules.
      – Have another baby while on welfare? Mandatory sterilization and permanent loss of all welfare.
      – Refuse to name the Father? Permanent loss of all welfare.
      – Commit crime while on welfare? Permanent loss of all welfare.
      – Riot in support of crime? Permanent loss of all welfare.
      – Join a gang or support a wanted criminal? Permanent loss of all welfare.
      – Refuse to feed your own kids or insist its the states or schools job to do it? Permanent loss of all welfare.
      – Demand more welfare in a welfare office? Permanent loss of all welfare.
      – Encourage your kids to fail at school or allow them to assault other students? Permanent loss of all welfare.

      • I agree, but I am a convicted felon, and did three years in the can. I’ve been out ten years now. My daughter, Ariadne is six. We three don’t receive anything at all.

        • David Ashton

          Your daughter has a beautiful name, if I may say so.

          • Ariadne was the wife of Theseus. If we have another girl, she’ll be Penelope, and if a boy, Owen.

          • Irishgirl

            I love your daughter’s name too. Does she like labyrinths?:)

    • rightrightright

      These women will simply find other baby fathers.

  • David Ashton

    I think “parents” who subject their children to sustained gross cruelty should be sterilized as a penalty and a precaution.

  • David Ashton

    This article carries an advertisement for the UK conservative quarterly “Salisbury Review” which previously published an article of mine sympathetic to mainstream humanitarian Galtonian eugenics.

    See also Diane Paul, “Eugenics and the Left”, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol.45, No.4 (Oct.-Dec. 1984), pp.567-590.

    Shaw was something of a maverick, rather too free with the ambiguous word “extermination”, and was at an early period publicly reprimanded by Galton. To eliminate disease from future generations is not the same thing as bumping off present generations of sick people.

  • evilsandmich

    Indeed, the problem isn’t the sterilization (per se), but socialism.

    • Precisely. If the taxpayers were not being coerced into supporting other people’s brats, the state would have no interest at all in sterilizing folks.

      We’re told we need to fund gibs me dat programs because dem darkie babies be starvin, but if this is the case, surely the answer is not to go and produce more starving nonwhite imbeciles. If the little bastards are important to Jesus, then it’s His job to feed them, not mine.

  • 1proactive2

    ”He made me feel like a bad mother if I didn’t do it.”
    Only in the sick and adolescent mind of a multiple felon can this comment be made. I hope the doctor told her that any “mother” who goes to prison is truly a bad mother – to put it mildly.