Deadline passes for filing eugenics claims in NC

Both the N.C. NAACP, a state advocacy organization, and the UNC Law’s Center for Civil Rights have requested for the legislature to extend the June 30 deadline, but so far the deadline has stood.

The University’s civil rights center has continued to find more claimants after the deadline, said Elizabeth Haddix, senior staff attorney for the UNC School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights.

According to the research of Lutz Kaelber, a sociology professor at the University of Vermont and a eugenics expert, about 1,500 victims of sterilization in North Carolina are estimated to still be alive.

“I think (the deadline) is almost unethical,” he said.

The state’s history of forced sterilizations dates to at least the 1920s. The Eugenics Board of North Carolina was established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1933 to review all cases of sterilization. The board was formally abolished in 1977.

In June 2012, the General Assembly passed a measure to compensate victims, allocating $10 million to be split among the victims that came forward.

This program is unique to North Carolina, Kaelber said, because to date no eugenics victim in the U.S. has been compensated. But he said the compensation — about $14,000 per victim if all current claims are approved — still seems low.

“In similar cases, where somebody is still alive and will suffer from that injury, it is not uncommon to have a structured settlement that is paid over time,” Kaelber said.

No funding for outreach was provided to the N.C. Department of Administration, which was in charge of promoting the compensation forms, Haddix said.

“We’ve been working since November to reach out to victims,” said Chris Mears, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Administration.

Compensation for verified victims will be sent out in June 2015.

Haddix said since victims will not be paid until 2015, the deadline for filing a claim should have been extended at least six months.

Kaelber said there are still many victims left to be compensated.

The law does not compensate the families of eugenics victims who died before June 30, 2013, and victims would only be eligible for compensation if they were sterilized by the state eugenics board.

“This is a very good start, but one would hope that this program would continue and not be curtailed by some seemingly arbitrary deadlines,” Kaelber said.

Contact the desk editor at  state@dailytarheel.com.

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