A California state auditor blasted both state and federal authorities for performing sterilization procedures on female prison inmates without obtaining the consent of the women.
According to State Auditor Elaine Howle, 144 tubal ligations were performed on inmates for the years 2005-06 to 2012-13, with more than a quarter performed without lawful consent as required under California's informed-consent law, according to the SF Gate.
The audit was launched following an investigation conducted by the Center for Investigative Reporting more than a year ago, stating that prison medical staffers coerced some women into the operations while specifically targeting those deemed likely to return to prison after they were released.
According to the audit, the typical sterilized inmate had previously been pregnant five or more times, with most women testing below high school reading proficiency levels, with one third of those reading below sixth-grade level.
Between documents missing physician signatures and waiting-period violations, the number of illegal sterilizations totaled 39, the report found.
The audit also noted that the federal receiver's office, responsible for medical care in the state's prisons since 2006, stated that it has no legal duty to make sure that prison employees are complying with state consent procedures.
State Sen. Ted Lieu, (D-Torrance), who was the first to call for the Medical Board of California to investigate the surgeries, called the assertion, "ludicrous."
State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, (D-Santa Barbara), who requested the state audit last August, issued a statement saying: "Based upon the auditor's report, the problem is far more systemic. We now have clear proof that the prison environment is an environment where consent simply cannot be obtained in a responsible, reliable manner for these procedures."
In her report, State Auditor Howle urged federal officials to step in and forward the names of physicians involved in the illegal surgeries to the State Medical Board and the state Department of Public Health for further investigation and disciplinary action.
The State Medical Board has yet to complete their own investigation.
Watch video below detailing the work of the Center for Investigative Reporting courtesy of Journeyman Pictures: