STATEWIDE – The California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB) is awarding money, until December 31, 2023, to people who lived in state-run hospitals, homes and institutions through 1979 that were involuntarily sterilized. In addition, people who were in custody of a state prison or other correctional facility after 1979 and forcibly sterilized are also eligible for compensation.
It is estimated that at least 600 survivors of forced sterilization are still alive today and eligible for compensation. California’s Forced or Involuntary Sterilization Compensation Program, signed into law in 2021, is providing $4.5 million to be split evenly among all eligible individuals who apply.
So far, the state has approved 51 people for payments since the program’s January 2022 opening. State officials have denied 103 people, closed three incomplete applications and are processing 153 others. They say it’s difficult to verify the applications as many records have been lost or destroyed.
California Eugenic Laws
Eugenicist in California saw sterilization as a tool to prevent the procreation of undesirable traits, overcrowding of state institutions, and to alleviate fiscal constraints on the state.
According to the University of Vermont 20,108 people were sterilized in state institutions prior to 1964 under the state’s eugenics law. California had the highest number of sterilizations in the United States – one third of all sterilizations nationwide. The numbers of men and women sterilized were about equal. Of the total sterilizations, almost 60% were considered mentally ill and more than 35% were considered mentally deficient.
Eugenic Nation documents that men and women of Mexican origin represented between 7% and 8% of those sterilized. Black Americans made up 1% of California’s population but accounted for 4% of the sterilizations.
Although the state repealed its eugenics law in 1979, the practice continued in state prisons into the 2010s.
A 2014 state audit found 144 women were sterilized between 2005 and 2013 without consent. Governor Jerry Brown responded by passing a law in 2014 to ban sterilizations in prison for birth control purposes.
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California is the third state in the nation to provide monetary compensation to survivors who were sterilized while under state eugenics laws. It is the first state to both provide notification of coerced sterilization and reparations to survivors who were sterilized while incarcerated.
In addition to the compensation, the state allocated $2 million for administration and outreach for the program. Another $1 million will establish plaques at designated sites that acknowledge the wrongful sterilization of thousands of people.
For more information about the Forced or Involuntary Sterilization Compensation Program visit https://victims.ca.gov/fiscp/