Lawmakers called for the audit after coverage from the Center for Investigative Reporting last year. The Center found more than 100 incarcerated women had received tubal ligations without proper approvals between 2006 and 2010. It found 100 more possible cases dating back to the 1990s.
The new state audit has found that some surgeries were done illegally and that the safeguards built into the system had failed.
It says that in some cases, physicians didn’t sign forms to certify that a waiting period was observed, and that the patients understood the procedure’s implications.
Democratic California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson says the news is “disturbing.”
“We knew that there was a problem, but the extent of it is really quite shocking," Jackson says. She says the audit shows that there is a systemic problem in the prison system.
“We have to stop this culture, we have to stop this behavior and remove California from a history of eugenics which have been practiced in this state since the 1930s,” she says.
But California Correctional Health Care Services says it halted unauthorized sterilizations when it became aware of them in 2010.
“As we’ve moved forward in the past four years, we’re continuing to increase those steps to ensure further safeguards, ” says Liz Gransee, a public information officer with the agency.
Gransee says it’s planning to comply with the State Auditor’s recommendations. That includes referring unlawful cases to the California Medical Board and the California Department of Public Health so it can investigate the involved providers.
“We’re continuing to improve health care as we go on,” Gransee says.
Angel Rinehart was sterilized during a prison term that started in 2007.
“I’m probably getting married soon, and now I’m not going to be able to give my husband children, and I don’t have enough money to change the circumstances.”
Senator Jackson says in the prison setting, it’s not possible to get consent for sterilization in a reliable or responsible way.
She and advocates have crafted a bill that would prohibit sterilizations in prisons, except under limited circumstances.
This story was reported in conjunction with the Center for Investigative Reporting