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North Carolina Sterilization Victims Get Compensation

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue’s Eugenics Compensation Task Force has finally come up with a settlement figure, according to recent report by the New York Times. The panel has found that each living victim of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program should be given $50,000.00. North Carolina is not the first state to have a eugenics program, but it is the first state to place a monetary value on the compensation owed to the victims.

The term “eugenics” indicates an attempt to create a particular type of gene pool by selective breeding. According to a popular medical website, eugenics first began in the United States in Indiana where the government required state officials to sterilize, incarcerate, and at times, euthanize people who were thought to be genetically inferior. It turned into a massive campaign to rid the country of ethnic minorities, as the majority of the population was convinced that being a minority and being genetically inferior was one in the same.

North Carolina’s sterilization program was part of that campaign. Between 1933 and 1977, the North Carolina Eugenics Board sterilized nearly 8,000 people, mostly minorities and those with mental illnesses. In December 2011, the New York Times reported about a man named Charles Holt, who was forcibly sterilized as a teenager after he was caught fighting at school and openly masturbating. After spending years in a facility for individuals with mental disabilities, Holt was required to have a vasectomy before he could be released.

The North Carolina program allowed social workers to determine which people should be sterilized, and the social workers usually relied on IQ scores, which, to those running the program, served as an indication of mental capacity. Those with low mental capacity were deemed to not be fit enough to reproduce and were thus sterilized.

Some of the victims of the sterilization program are happy about the potential payout while others are convinced that it is not enough for what the government took from them. One victim, Ms. Rita Thompson Swords, said, “I think that number sounds fantastic.” Another victim, Ms. Elaine Riddick said, “They took away something from me that was so valuable that I can never get back.”

While there appears to be support from both parties in the North Carolina legislature for the payout, lawmakers may not be so easily convinced, especially since the payout could come total some $100 million. The panel believes that only between 1,500 and 2000 victims are still living. If Governor Perdue can convince legislators to approve this compensation plan, those victims will each receive $50,000.00.


It is devastating to hear about how government run amok can trample on an individual’s rights. It takes a strong victim to stand up and hold the government accountable for its actions. That, however, will usually require the services and expertise of legal counsel. Complex civil litigation such as this should be handled by a North Carolina personal injury lawyer who is experienced in that area of the law. If you or someone you know requires the expertise of a Charlotte personal injury attorney, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704-370-2828 for a free consultation.

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