Tuesday in Raleigh, Governor Perdue’s five-person task force announced its final recommendations for victims of the state’s sterilization program, which ran from 1929 to 1974.
WHQR’s Sara Wood reports a handful of living victims and family members of deceased victims filled a small conference room to hear the group’s report.
The committee announced four final recommendations which will be presented to Perdue next month.
Most notable is a sum of $50,000 paid to only living victims and not to the estates of victims who are deceased.
The news saddened Australia Clay, a Durham resident whose mother was involuntarily sterilized in 1965 and verified only after she died.
“So our recommendation was that they make that compensation to her estate, because otherwise she’s victimized again.”
Task Force Chair Laura Gerald says the decision to compensate only living victims was particularly difficult for the committee, one of the reasons it took several months for the group to come to an agreement.
“We also feel that there is a significant difference in say, the number of living victims and the total number of people who were affected by the eugenics board such that we think that compensating living victims is just more achievable for the state.”
The other recommendations include continued funding for the victims’ foundation, increased outreach efforts, compensation for mental health services, and a traveling eugenics exhibit.
Gerald says what might make these recommendations move forward is political momentum from legislators who will convene for a short session this spring.
“I would just hope that the convergence of support would make this the time to seize the moment and to finally right this wrong and move forward in this chapter of eugenics in North Carolina.”
Living victims and family members are submitting their own set of recommendations to the governor as well. They’re requesting $1 million for both living victims and the estates of the deceased. Australia Clay says she continues to fight for victims’ rights alongside her support network.
“We all as victims and family members, we’ve all been working together, calling each other, emailing each other, so we have a real unity between all the victims.”
In its almost 50-year run, North Carolina’s eugenics board sterilized 7,600 people, and it is estimated that there are 1,500-2,000 living victims. Currently, only 72 victims have been verified.
The state’s program lasted longer than any other in the country, and North Carolina is the first state to attempt to compensate victims.
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