Jessie Lee Herald, 27, of Edinburg, Virginia was offered a plea deal by assistant commonwealth's attorney Ilona L. White on June 4 that encompassed undergoing a vasectomy, 20 months in jail and five years' probation. Herald accepted the plea to avoid a trial for charges of child endangerment, hit-and-run driving and driving on a suspended license. Herald had multiple previous convictions for charges that included possession of illegal substances and other instances of hitt-and-run driving, but prosecutor White explained that his previous convictions were not the only factors in the construction of the state's deal. As Northern Virginia Daily reports: White said her motivation in offering the vasectomy option to Herald stemmed from concerns raised at sentencing hearings in earlier cases about how many children have been traced to him from different women. "It was primarily due to the fact he had seven or eight children, all by different women, and we felt it might be in the commonwealth's interest for that to be part of the plea agreement," White said of the vasectomy provision.Critics have been quick to point out that this is a form of state-sanctioned eugenics, which has a long history at the margins of United States law. State sterilization was infamously upheld by the Supreme Court in 1927's Buck v. Bell, a case that originated in Virginia and paved the way for systemic sterilizations in poor and minority communities, prisons, and U.S. territories. Most recently, outlets such as The Guardian reported forced sterilization of women in California prisons up until 2010.
Dan Staggs is an intern at In These Times.