Jessie Lee Herald, 27, from Shenandoah County, Va., will be undergoing a vasectomy as part of a plea deal that will reduce his prison sentence by at least five years in connection with his child endangerment case in Virginia. Herald has fathered seven children with at least six female partners in Virginia. The prosecutor’s motive behind the unusual plea arrangement is to keep Herald “from fathering more than the seven children” he already has, according to a June 23 report from WUSA-9.
As part of his plea deal, Herald was sentenced earlier this month to only one year and eight months behind bars after being found guilty of “child endangerment, hit and run, and driving on a suspended license in a crash in which authorities said his 3-year-old son was bloodied but not seriously hurt.”
Prosecutor Ilona White said that when Herald gets out of jail that he needs to be able to support his seven offspring. Herald’s attorney said that his client “willingly, If reluctantly” agreed to the plea arrangement.
Herald’s proposed vasectomy though, conjures up dark memories of Virginia’s and other U.S. states’ twentieth century “eugenics” practices, where some convicted criminals were sterilized as part of their sentences. Steve Benjamin, former president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers out of Richmond, Va., said that he’s never come across a case like Herald’s, adding that Herald’s plea deal “takes on the appearance of social engineering."
Some 8,000 people deemed genetically inferior or deficient were forcibly sterilized in Virginia from the 1920s to about 1970. Many other states also had eugenics programs but abandoned them after World War II when forced sterilizations became closely associated with Nazi Germany's racial purity efforts.
The selective breeding and sterilization practices of the eugenics movement seemed to zero in on sterilizing the mentally disabled, minorities and the poor, according to Newsday. Of all the states that participated in the movement, the state of North Carolina is the only state to ever have offered compensation to eugenics’ victims. North Carolina residents still have until June 30 to apply for restitution payments.
Herald’s 20 month sentence would have been closer to seven years in prison had he not agreed to the vasectomy. Although none of his charges included any sexual offenses, the vasectomy was offered up as part of the plea arrangement to keep Herald from reproducing any further.
The court also ordered that Herald will have to pay for the vasectomy out of his own pocket. He has one year after his release from prison to have the procedure performed. The plea arrangement also stipulates that Herald cannot have the procedure reversed throughout his probationary period.