Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed legislation that will prohibit forced or coerced sterilizations of inmates in California prisons and allow felons behind bars easier access to DNA tests that could prove their innocence.
The bill limiting sterilizations comes four months after a state audit determined that at least 39 female inmates at California prisons underwent sterilization in which the women’s informed consent was in question.
“Pressuring a vulnerable population into making permanent reproductive choices without informed consent is unacceptable, and violates our most basic human rights,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who wrote SB 1135, in a statement Thursday.
The measure bars sterilizations in prisons for the purposes of birth control unless the inmate’s life is in danger or the procedure is needed to treat a medical condition and alternatives are not available, Jackson said.
Brown also signed legislation that allows imprisoned felons to get DNA tests done on evidence if they can show that it is relevant to their case. The current tougher standard requires they demonstrate that it would prove their innocence. The measure by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) also mandates that law enforcement agencies provide information about the existence of biological evidence.
The new law “promises to help correct the unspeakable offense of a wrongful conviction of an innocent person,” Lieu in a statement on SB 980. There have been 311 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States since 1989, the senator said.
In all, Brown on Thursday said he has signed 46 bills and vetoed 10.