- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — People sterilized against their will under a discredited North Carolina state program each should be paid $50,000, a task force voted Tuesday, marking the first time a state has moved to compensate victims of a once-common public health practice called eugenics.

The Legislature still must approve any payments.

The panel recommended that the money go to verified, living victims, including those who are alive now but may die before the lawmakers approve any compensation. The panel had discussed amounts between $20,000 and $50,000 per person.

Before the vote, panel chairwoman Laura Gerald said the task force was seeking a balance between the victims’ needs and political reality, noting that “compensation has been on the table now for nearly 10 years, but the state has lacked the political will to do anything other than offer an apology.”

North Carolina is one of about a half dozen states to apologize for past eugenics programs, but it is alone in trying to put together a plan to compensate victims.

State officials sterilized more than 7,600 people in North Carolina from 1929 to 1974 under eugenics programs, which at the time were aimed at creating what was seen as a better society by weeding out people such as criminals and mentally disabled people considered undesirable.

North Carolina was not the only state to engage in the practice. But it was different because it ramped up sterilizations after World War II despite associations between eugenics and Nazi Germany. About 70 percent of all North Carolina’s sterilizations were performed after the war, peaking in the 1950s, according to state records. The state officially ended the program in 1977.

A task force report last year said 1,500 to 2,000 of those victims were still alive, and the state has verified 72 victims.