A father of seven is being forced to get a vasectomy as part of a plea agreement. Jessie Lee Herald, age 27, was recently convicted of driving under suspension, hit-and-run, and child endangerment. Although he was facing nearly five years in prison, Shenandoah County, Virginia, assistant prosecutor Ilona White offered to reduce the sentence -- if Herald consents to a vasectomy.
Per the agreement, Herald will spend 20 months in prison and five years on probation. Following his release, he is required to get a vasectomy within one year. He is also responsible for paying for the procedure, which will likely exceed $1,000. Although he was reluctant to sign the agreement, Herald had few options.
Prosecutor White said her primary objective is to prevent the defendant from fathering more children, as he is unable "to support the children he already has." As reported by Huffington Post, Herald has fathered at least seven children with six different women.
Although sterilization has been suggested to deter convicted sex offenders, Herald's case is unique. Indeed, the defendant has been convicted of numerous crimes, including traffic violations, possession of drugs, and petty theft. However, he has never been accused or convicted of a sex crime.
In his most recent conviction, Herald is accused of driving on a suspended license and crashing his car. The father of seven was also charged with child endangerment, as his 3-year-old son was injured in the crash. Authorities confirmed that the toddler's injuries were non-life-threatening.
Steve Benjamin, with the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said a vasectomy should never be included in a plea agreement. In his opinion, the prosecutor's offer "takes on the appearance of social engineering."
Benjamin acknowledges the fact that Herald has numerous children, who he is unable to support. However, he does not believe the state has any right to suggest or force sterilization:
"Sentencing conditions are designed to prevent future criminal behavior... Fathering children is not criminal behavior."Slate writer Amanda Marcotte agrees with Benjamin's assessment. In a scathing criticism, Marcotte calls the vasectomy plea agreement a form of "reproductive coercion." She compares Herald's case to forced sterilization of the mentally ill and strict laws preventing abortion:
"In both cases, class plays a major role, as wealthier women have the ability to leave the state to get abortions, and no one would dare suggest that a wealthy man should have his testicles snipped because he has children by multiple women."In a perfect world Herald would have the integrity, and the means, to support all seven of his children. Unfortunately, that simply is not the case. Although he consented to the vasectomy in his plea agreement, he was reluctant to agree to the terms. The topic will likely spark continued debate.
[Image via Hamptom Roads]