NC panel: Sterilization victims should get $50K
Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 8:00 pm
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — People sterilized against their will under a discredited North Carolina state program should each be paid $50,000, a task force voted Tuesday, marking the first time a state has moved to compensate victims of a once-common public health practice called eugenics.
The panel recommended that the money go to verified, living victims, including those who are alive now but may die before the lawmakers approve any compensation.
The Legislature must still approve any payments.
A task force report last year said 1,500 to 2,000 of those victims were still alive, and the state has verified 72 victims. If the estimate is correct, the payments could total around $100 million. Survivors will have three years to apply for payments from the time a measure approving them goes into effect.
“We have repeatedly acknowledged and stated as a task force that no amount of money can adequately pay for the harm done to these citizens,” panel chairwoman Laura Gerald said. “We are not attempting through our work to place a value on anyone’s life. However, we are attempting to achieve a level of financial compensation and other services that can provide meaningful assistance to survivors
“Compensation also serves a collective purpose for the state and sends a clear message that we in North Carolina are people who pay for our mistakes and that we do not tolerate bureaucracies that trample on basic human rights.“
She said the task force was seeking a balance between the victims’ needs and political reality, noting that “compensation has been on the table now for nearly 10 years, but the state has lacked the political will to do anything other than offer an apology.”
North Carolina is one of about a half-dozen states to apologize for past eugenics programs, but it is alone in trying to put together a plan to compensate victims. The task force recommendations also include that the state continue to support the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation; that the compensation be awarded so that it doesn’t affect victims’ taxes or government services; and that mental health counseling be offered.
The panel had discussed amounts between $20,000 and $50,000 per person, and some victims and their family members had reacted angrily to the proposals because they felt the amounts were too low. Published in The Messenger 1.11.12