North Carolina will become the first state to compensate victims of a mass sterilization program that targeted poor minorities in a 20th century eugenics program, offering a $50,000 a person.

In a vote today, the Eugenics Compensation Task Force recommended the lump-sum amount, putting a three-year statute of limitations on claiming those funds.

The task force also established a pool to fund mental health services for sterilization victims.

The state has located 72 such victims, according to Jill Lucas, communications director for the North Carolina Department of Administration.

A final report on today's recommendations will be given to Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue to consider. She will pass along her recommendations to the General Assembly, which will make a final decision about compensation.

When most programs began in the early 1930s, this usually meant those in institutions for mental illness or mental retardation, but over the decades criminals, the blind, the deaf, the disabled, alcoholics, those with epilepsy and ultimately the rural poor on welfare would fall under the umbrella of "unfit to procreate."

In all, 65,000 Americans were sterilized before the last program was shut down in the early 1980s.

Though detailed, often meticulous records of these sterilizations survive in state archives, America's flirtation with selective sterilization has for the most part been a buried chapter in the nation's history.

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