RALEIGH, N.C. — It's a question that has not been answered before and doesn't have an easy solution: How do you repay people for taking away their ability to have children?
North Carolina's Eugenics Compensation Task Force is the first in the nation to tackle that question and is set on Tuesday to recommend how much to pay victims of forced sterilization, along with whether the victims' descendants are eligible for the money.
"If we all agree that there is no amount that restores somebody's loss of ability to procreate, then it's understood that the ultimate figure is an attempt to put out an active apology instead of a verbal apology," said task force member Demetrius Worley Berry, a Greensboro attorney.
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 a better society by weeding out people such as criminals and mentally disabled people considered undesirable.
The panel has discussed amounts between $20,000 and $50,000 a person.
Victims reacted angrily, saying they deserved more money, and descendants argued the estates of victims who have since died also should be paid. Some have suggested as much as $1 million per victim.
"I think that what they're doing is unfair, and I think that they're looking at North Carolina in a cheap way," said Delores Marks, 60, of Durham.
Marks' mother was sent to a psychiatric hospital in 1953 after showing signs of what Marks thinks was probably post-partum depression. She returned to her family after a few months at the hospital, where she was sterilized.
The Legislature would have to approve any compensation to victims, of which 1,500 to 2,000 the task force has said are believed to be alive. Officials have found 48 of them so far.