Judge to Offenders: Donate Blood or Go to Jail

Experts say judge's ultimatum was 'wrong in about 3,000 ways'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2015 3:02 PM CDT
Judge to Offenders: Donate Blood or Go to Jail

Last month, an Alabama judge gave a courtroom full of offenders a choice: donate blood or go to jail, the New York Times reports. “For your consideration, there’s a blood drive outside," Judge Marvin Wiggins told the offenders, who were there because they owed fees and fines. "If you don’t have any money, go out there and give blood and bring in a receipt indicating you gave blood.” The offenders were promised they would then not be sent to jail, plus they'd get a $100 credit toward what they owed. “I don’t know whether it’s legal or not," one lawyer who was present tells the Times. "I don’t know if that violates half the Constitution." Legal and health experts are more certain, calling the judge's ultimatum "improper" and "wrong in about 3,000 ways." “You’re basically sentencing someone to an invasive procedure that doesn’t benefit them," a medical ethics professor says.

Dozens of offenders ended up donating blood. The Birmingham News reports a recording of the blood drive catches them saying things like, "I don't like being told I have to or I'm going to jail," and, "Don't thank me, thank the judge." The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint against Wiggins Monday. It's not the first against him. He was reprimanded in 2009 for not recusing himself from a case involving his relatives, and he was removed from the Alabama State University board of trustees over a conflict of interest in 2014. According to the Times, the blood bank eventually threw out most of the blood collected following a complaint. And the SPLC claims none of the offenders whose claims they've reviewed actually got the promised $100 credit. (More judge stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.