S. E. Williams |

On New Year’s Eve California Governor Gavin Newsom announced another important action in the state’s ongoing effort to redress historical wrongs. 

This time the focus is on the victims of the state’s participation in the national Eugenics movement which resulted in the forced sterilization of thousands of Americans. In short, Eugenics is the pseudo-scientific belief– once the law in America– that sought to sanction the theory of racial superiority by using a reckless unscientific theory wrapped in a thin veneer of classism and racism and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The forced sterilizations encoded in California’s Eugenics laws are believed to have resulted in the sterilization of about 20,000 people who lived in state-run hospitals, homes and institutions. California would go on to lead the nation with more forced sterilizations than any other state. 

California’s Eugenics laws, officially enacted in 1909, were finally repealed until 1979. 

The forced sterilizations encoded in California’s eugenics laws are believed to have resulted in the forced sterilization of about 20,000 people (source: pop.com).

It was later discovered, however, that forced or coerced sterilizations continued to be performed on people in custody at state prisons or other correctional facilities under the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Legislation finally ended the practice by CDCR 18 years later on January 1, 2015.  

A dark chapter in state history

“California is committed to confronting this dark chapter in the state’s past and addressing the impacts of this shameful history still being felt by Californians today,” said Governor Newsom in a press statement. 

California led the nation in forced sterilizations. (source: timeline.com).

The newly announced program will compensate survivors with funding included in the state’s 2021-22 budget package. 

About $4.5 million will be split evenly among all eligible individuals who apply and another $2 million is earmarked for administration and outreach for the program. In addition, $1 million will be used to establish markers or plaques at designated sites that acknowledge the wrongful sterilization of thousands of vulnerable people. 

According to state officials, it is believed an estimated 600 survivors of forced sterilization are still alive today and eligible for this long overdue compensation.

How to apply

As of January 1, 2022 survivors of the state sponsored sterilization program can apply for compensation through the California Forced or Involuntary Sterilization Compensation Program. The effort is being administered by the California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB).

Survivors are encouraged to visit www.victims.ca.gov/fiscp  or reach out to CalVCB at 800-777-9229 or fiscp@victims.ca.gov to obtain an application. Survivors can also send a letter to P.O. Box 591, Sacramento, CA 95812-0591. Applications will be accepted from Jan. 1, 2022 through Dec. 31, 2023. 

The application process is confidential

Applying is completely confidential. Compensation paid to the claimant or claimant’s trust will not impact a survivor’s Medicaid or Social Security status or benefits. Also, it will not be considered income for state tax purposes or for community property, child support, restitution or a money judgment.

“While we can never fully make amends for what they’ve endured,” said Newsom. “[T]he state will do all it can to ensure survivors of wrongful sterilization receive compensation.”

From 1909 through 1979, under state Eugenics laws, thousands of people who lived in California state-run hospitals, homes and institutions were sterilized. Those laws were repealed in 1979. However, it was later found that forced or coerced sterilizations continued to be performed on people in custody at state prisons or other correctional facilities under the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.