More than one-quarter of inmate sterilizations performed in California from mid-2005 to mid-2013 followed deficient consent procedures, including 18 cases in which the waiting period between consent and surgery was potentially violated, the state auditor said Thursday.
State Auditor Elaine Howle said in a report that of 144 inmates sterilized using bilateral tubal ligations, 39 inmates were sterilized "following deficiencies in the informed consent process." In addition to cases in which the auditor said waiting periods may have been violated, the auditor found no evidence in 27 of 39 cases that the inmate's doctor had signed a required consent form.
"Our legal counsel has advised us that, based on these facts, a court would likely conclude that these 39 inmates' consent was not lawfully obtained," Howle said in her report.
The federal health receiver's office, which oversees medical care in state prisons, said in a written response that the audit's findings "date back to policy that was in effect in 1999, or possibly even before," noting the audit's finding that the use of sterilization has decreased significantly in recent years.
It said many of the auditor's concerns will be addressed by adopting an auditor's recommendation that the receiver defer the procedure for obtaining consent to hospitals where sterilizations are performed.
The state Senate passed legislation in May that would forbid jails and prisons from sterilizing inmates for the purpose of birth control, after the Center for Investigative Reporting found doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 inmates without required approvals.
PHOTO: Former Valley State Prison for Women inmate Kimberly Jeffrey with her son Noel, 3, shown in June 2013. During her imprisonment in 2010, Jeffrey says a doctor pressured her to agree to be sterilized, but she refused. Noah Berger/ For The Center for Investigative Reporting