An oddball case has made it to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, alleging that inmates in Tennessee were unduly coerced into agreeing to have a vasectomy in exchange for credit for time served in custody, and that the offer violated the civil rights of inmates.
Shortly after the news of the judge created policy broke in the summer of 2017, it was rescinded under public pressure. However, as noted in appellate argument, some inmates were still being awarded the credits under the policy.
At issue on appeal was whether the plaintiffs actually had standing, or suffered a tangible, redressable injury in fact. The plaintiffs had not taken the judge up on his offer, but rather contended that the very offer itself violated their constitutional rights because others who accepted were advantaged.
While defendants and inmates often give up certain rights to accept plea deals, or, as in this case, to get additional credit for time served, when the right to procreate gets mixed up with criminal justice, things get weird. One issue for the plaintiffs however is that all have been released, and, as the government argued, no longer have claims, and cannot accrue claims, related to this policy.
The plaintiffs' attorney maintained that the plaintiffs did suffer an injury in that their convictions will not be eligible for expungement as soon as those inmates who did accept the offer.