Judge Reduces Woman's Prison Sentence Because She Got Sterilized, but It Was Totally Her 'Choice'

Paternalistic nudging in action


Pregnant in prison
Supahkaln Wongcompune /

It would be unconstitutional—and unconscionable—for a judge to order a woman to be sterilized as punishment for a history of check fraud.

So instead a federal judge told Summer Thyme Creel that she would get a shorter criminal sentence if she voluntarily chose to get herself sterilized.

Creel agreed, and so U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot in Oklahoma City yesterday sentenced her to a year in federal prison and to pay more than $15,000 in restitution for passing counterfeit checks.

The Oklahoman reports that federal guidelines recommend a 16-month sentence for Creel's crimes, but the judge had the freedom to sentence her to up to 10 years. Friot said at her sentencing that he was giving her a shorter sentence specifically because she agreed to get sterilized.

Bafflingly, he also claimed that he wouldn't have counted it against her had she chosen against getting sterilized, even though in his order last summer he specifically told her that he would take into consideration whether she had.

The justification for making this "suggestion" to Creel is that she's a chronic drug user who had seven children by the age of 34 and a criminal history of check fraud. She tested positive for meth twice between the point that she pleaded guilty last year and her sentencing this week. The father of four of her children is in prison for murder.

But what does sterilizing Creel have to do with stopping her from committing crimes? No longer being able to have kids doesn't prevent her from either engaging in further check fraud or consuming more drugs. Imagine the outcry if the judge had tied her sentence to whether she'd agree to get an abortion the next time she gets pregnant.

Based on The Oklahoman's coverage of the case, the judge seems willfully obtuse about the fact that, given his position and his control over Creel's future, his "suggestions" will be treated differently:

The judge chided a prosecutor for telling him in a sentencing memorandum Creel has "a fundamental constitutional right to procreate."

The prosecutor in the memo had cited a 1942 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found unconstitutional Oklahoma's Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act.

"This is rather curious," the judge said of the prosecutor's position on the issue. The judge then pointed out the 1942 decision had involved involuntary sterilization. He said the prosecutor apparently overlooked that fact.

Friot insists it was entirely her choice as to whether she got sterilized. It's not unlike how we all "choose" to pay taxes. You don't have to pay taxes. You can also choose to go to prison. It's totally your choice, though.

NEXT: 'Family Values' Republican Accused of Paying for Sex Also Voted to Raise Penalties for Paying for Sex

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  1. But what does sterilizing Creel have to do with stopping her from committing crimes?

    It’s a slight variation on the time honored state position that more children equal a greater number of burdens on society. If she didn’t keep popping out kids, she wouldn’t have to steal so much to care for them and nurse her habit.

    1. You misspelled “pooping”.

      1. They’re going to law school?

  2. What about offering sterilization as a trade for early parole for repeat offenders? Or maybe offer sterilization as a condition for continued welfare payments? This sounds really horrible, but the long term affects would probably be very positive for society. For an example of unintended positive outcomes, just see the national crime rate drop 18 years after Roe v Wade.

    1. Yes, I know. I’m a monster.

    2. This is actually a logical extension of the alt-right argument against immigration on account of the false claim that it increases the number of welfare recipients.

      1. The core problem being not the welfare state, but people. All of these stances seem to come from a deep misanthropy.

      2. It depends if you parse it out as ‘illegal’ or ‘legal’ immigration since those two groups are disparate.

      3. Is your assertion that this is a false claim due to a technical definition of “welfare”? Because I can’t see how you can plausibly argue that all these low-income immigrants (and their foreign or native-born kids) aren’t using social services.

        1. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most social services, except for public schools.

          1. But their children are and the people they displace from the workforce are so there is that.

          2. But their children are, which is a direct benefit to the parents. That’s before we even get into your usage of the word ‘most’ which directly contradicts your previous statement.

            1. But their children are citizens if they were born here. And I wouldn’t count public school as welfare, it’s against the law NOT to send your kids to public school.

  3. Nigh-unchecked power over the lives of other human beings is a hell of a drug.

    1. I like to imagine that the judge knew that if she wasn’t sterilized that he was gonna put a baby up in her.


  4. Imagine the outcry if the judge had tied her sentence to whether she’d agree to get an abortion the next time she gets pregnant.

    I’m thinking it wouldn’t be quite as bad as you think it might be.

  5. Ah, Progressives.

    1. I believe that the last progressive judge in Oklahoma was killed in the 60s. Try again.

      1. I think he is referring to the original progressives and their enthusiasm for eugenics.

        1. There should be a glossary here that contains agreed upon definitions of political terms.

          1. If you look up Progressive, you’d realize that Teddy Roosevelt was the first one elected in the United States. What party was he a part of before starting the Progressive party, again?

            You should probably read some history before you assume that Republicans can’t be Progressive.

            1. Wait, Teddy Roosevelt was the judge? I’m confuuuuuuuused.

              1. That’s understandable since it appears you’re unable to draw even basic conclusions from evidence.

                1. You probably say that Fascists are leftists. Right?

                  1. You’ll probably say they weren’t socialists, right?

  6. Obviously getting sterilized has nothing to do with her crime or the punishment she deserves for that crime. It’s purely about what’s best for society and avoiding harm to potential future offspring.

    1. Obviously getting sterilized has nothing to do with her crime or the punishment she deserves for that crime.

      Which is why a judge should have fuck all to do with “recommending” it.

    2. “What’s best for society” = Imma impose my view of how things ought to be on you with a gun.

  7. I’ve just begun fostering an infant from a 22 year old mother that is in prison and mentally ill. My friends have adopted her three other children. The kids are 3, 2, 1, and ours is a month old. All have different fathers, none of which have ever come forward. Amazingly, she volunteered to have her tubes tied and the idiot prison doctors and social workers convinced her not to. This woman isn’t there for some minor crime…she burned down a house full of people, among other things.

    My idea to stop this madness is for the state to offer her $5000 (or some payment) to have her tubes tied. Obviously there would need to be more thought required in order to prevent unintended consequences, e.g. creating a system where a “normal” mother that is done having children can simply get paid for a procedure she was going to have anyway.

    It seems odious, but this baby will get more than $5000 of healthcare in her first year alone. This doesn’t strike me as coercive and it saves the state money.

    I’d be curious to hear thoughts on this.

    1. I like it.

      But then I think about how horribly it could be (and thus, would be) misused by the state, and then I like it less.

      And then I look into a distant future in which precedent upon precedent have morphed this well-intentioned law into a eugenics enabling hydra, and I don’t like it anymore.

      1. Care to elaborate?

      2. Care to elaborate?

        1. Think slippery slope. I know that it’s not a valid argument. But, imagine what an authoritarian could add to a simple law like this. For example, 10 years down the road, lawmakers decide that after the “third strike” it’s no longer optional, but mandatory. And then 10 years later, due to some fabricated media crisis, all men accused of sexual impropriety can “choose” a vasectomy as part of the plea bargain. Once you pass a certain threshold, once unimaginable things become acceptable. And our freedoms slowly evaporate.

      3. There is nothing INHERENTLY wrong with eugenics. It just happens to have been practiced in scientifically unsound, coercive ways. There could be, and, I hope, WILL be, a scientifically sound, non-coercive eugenic program, and that will NOT be evil, and WILL be beneficial to humanity.

        The paradigm for a good eugenic program would be: a very wealthy person endows a fund to persuade people to VOLUNTARILY get tested for disease-mutations such as CF or sickle-cell hemoglobin. Maybe by paying people money to get tested. And also, the fund would persuade people who tested positive to VOLUNTARILY take measures to avoid passing the bad mutation on to future generations, either by not breeding at all, or, by using artificial reproductive technologies such as IVF with selective implantation of confirmed-normal embryos/blastocycsts. Again, the fund could offer to pay people for taking these measures.

        This would be eugenics, but also scientifically sound, non-coercive, and beneficial to humanity. Future generations would be less likely to suffer from genetic diseases, some of which are horrible. Cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, many others. Including, RRM2B-related MDDS, which is what little Charlie Gard had.

        1. You watch Gattica recently?

    2. I am on board with you on this one…

      1. Well OK, a more detailed comment seems warranted…

        I find it utterly unfathomable that anyone could see that we allow “capital punishment” (killing the offender), but reproductive rights are utterly off of the table! Would you rather be killed, or sterilized?!?! Duh!

        Add sterilization to the mix of punishments… For, for example, severe child abuse… Seems OK by me… SO LONG AS we take away some Government Almighty powers in return! Like ending the drug war, for example…

        Otherwise, we have nothing but ever-increasing powers of Government Almighty!!!

        1. Thanks for replying…but I was asking Eric 🙂

    3. Why have the State offer her money to have her tubes tied? Why get the State involved at all? Have a private charity do it. If it is such a great idea, people will donate. There is no need to introduce coercion into it.

      1. Well there is this….

        Of course the argument for the state being involved that the state is already involved supporting the 7 kids she in not capable of taking care of.

      2. Perhaps you missed the part where she is in prison for burning down a house full of people? That is why the state is involved. And since the state is involved, each of the children she pumps out costs the state tens of thousands of dollars each.

        You can argue that the state shouldn’t be involved in child welfare…but it is. And even with the state involved there is a huge shortage of foster families and people willing to adopt. These foster families and adoptive families are “private charities” and all evidence points to the fact that not enough people are willing to step up for these kids. So no, people will not just donate.

        The problem with a lot of Libertarians is that we just argue philosophy instead of being pragmatic. Look, the world we envision isn’t going to happen overnight (if ever). In my view, offering a payment to the mother to choose to be sterilized is incrementally more Libertarian. It obviously has the potential to shrink the size of the state. If there are no penalties for refusing, there is no reduction in freedom.

        I have no idea what your definition of coercion is, but it doesn’t seem to be the correct one. If the government showed up to my door offering to pay me $1m above market for my property, with zero penalty for refusal, that would not be coercive at all. How is that not analogous to what I’ve proposed? I’m open to the fact that I may not be considering something, but I am having a hard time seeing it.

    4. I’d be curious to see updates on the nature vs nurture results in 12-16 years.

  8. See CITIZEN RUTH (1996) with Laura Dern. It’s about this very subject.

  9. ” A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.”

  10. This is fine. In fact, we should be encouraging as many women as possible to get spayed starting in grade school. Give a bonus if you get cut before you graduate and dont have any kids!

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