North Carolina will spend $10 million to compensate men and women who were sterilized in the state's eugenics program, which was among the most extensive and long-running of its kind.
North Carolina sterilized 7,600 people from 1929 to 1974 who were deemed socially or mentally unfit. Victims were as young as 10 years old and nearly all were sterilized forcibly or with inadequate consent, according to the state.
The Legislature this past week approved a $10 million compensation fund that would begin paying out in June 2015. So far the state has identified 177 living victims. The amount of compensation each receives will depend on the number of verified claims, according to the state Department of Administration. If 200 people are verified, for example, each would receive $50,000.
"The money don't take up the place of what happened," said Willis Lynch, an 80-year-old retired handyman who was sterilized at age 14 after being deemed mentally unfit. "I'm glad they did something, though."
Mr. Lynch said he was sent to a school for the mentally and developmentally disabled after his widowed mother could no longer care for her seven children. Records from the state's eugenics board show that in the late 1940s no one from that school was to leave without being sterilized, except in cases where children had been committed in error.
"No amount that we can afford to pay is enough," said House Speaker Pro Tempore Paul Stam, a Republican. "But this is sufficient for the living victims to know that the state of North Carolina sincerely regrets the injustice that we've done to them."
Verifying victims is a daunting task, as records are incomplete, and often lacking basic information like Social Security numbers. Many people have moved, gotten married and changed names, and three-quarters of those sterilized have already died, according to state estimates.