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Elaine Thompson / AP

Two months ago, General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield of White County, Tennessee signed an order allowing inmates to lessen their jail time by up to 30 days by for receiving a birth control implant or vasectomy. Since the program started, at least 32 women and 38 men have decided to take the deal, according to county officials.

Judge Benningfield explained the reasoning behind the practice to News Channel 5:

"I hope to encourage them to take personal responsibility and give them a chance, when they do get out, to not to be burdened with children. This gives them a chance to get on their feet and make something of themselves."

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the constitutionality of the order.

The ACLU's statement:

"Offering a so-called 'choice' between jail time and coerced contraception or sterilization is unconstitutional. Such a choice violates the fundamental constitutional right to reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity by interfering with the intimate decision of whether and when to have a child, imposing an intrusive medical procedure on individuals who are not in a position to reject it. Judges play an important role in our community – overseeing individuals' childbearing capacity should not be part of that role."

A long history: This isn't the first case of inmates being coerced into sterilization. In the early 1900s there was a movement of forced sterilization in prisons across the U.S., with California leading the country in these sterilizations until the practice was banned in 1979. But in 2013, the Center for Investigative Journalism discovered that at least 150 female inmates in California had been sterilized without consent. (Read more about that, here.)

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
8 mins ago - Economy & Business

Speculative crypto art market takes off

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Move over, GameStop. The newest speculative game in town is NFTs — digital files that can be owned and traded on a plethora of new online platforms.

Why it matters: Most NFTs include some kind of still or moving image, which makes them similar to many physical art objects. Some of them, including a gif of Nyan Cat flying through the sky with a pop-tart body and rainbow trail, can be worth more than your house.

New coronavirus cases fall by 20%

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections continued their sharp decline over the past week, and are now back down to pre-Thanksgiving levels.

The big picture: Given the U.S.’ experience over the past year, it can be hard to trust anything that looks like good news, without fearing that another shoe is about to drop. But the U.S. really is doing something right lately. Cases are way down, vaccinations are way up, and that’s going to save a lot of lives.

Updated 5 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.