Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed a bill into law late June 10 that would require child sex offenders to be chemically castrated as a condition of parole.
Gov. Kay Ivey’s press office said the bill is to take effect later this year. The measure applies to sex offenders convicted of certain crimes involving children younger than 13.
The House Bill 379 (HB379) was passed by the Alabama State Legislature last week, calling for mandatory “chemical castration in addition to any other penalty or condition prescribed by law.”
The sex offenders would also have to pay for their own chemical castration before being released from state custody and they “may not be denied parole based solely on his or her inability to pay for the costs associated with the treatment.”
The chemical castration procedure involves taking a drug, “medroxyprogesterone acetate or its chemical equivalent” either by tablets or injection, to suppress or block the body from producing the hormone testosterone.
The treatments would be administered by the Alabama Department of Public Health.
The new law mandates that the child sex offender has to start the treatment within a month of their release from custody and has to continue the treatment until the court determines that it is no longer necessary.
Rep. Steve Hurst (R-Munford) who introduced the bill, had proposed similar bills in the past for more than a decade. The bill passed on May 30.
“I’m very serious,” Hurst said, according to AL.com. “Not only did I want it to pass, I want to follow it on through to the future where we can try to improve it. One of the ultimate goals that I want to do is for us to track it and to make sure what medication works for what individuals.”
Republican State Rep. Steve Hurst said the bill will save children’s lives and that passing a bill like this has been a goal of his for almost 15 years. https://t.co/ujPHJE0oIZ
— WOWT 6 News (@WOWT6News) June 5, 2019
Hurst said that many victims of sexual abuse support the measure.
“It’s amazing how many phone calls and how many emails I’ve gotten,” Hurst said. “People not just in the state of Alabama but all over the world, things they went through.”
State Sen. Cam Ward (R), the bill’s Senate sponsor, said that most people convicted of child sex offenses will not be up for parole, and so the law is unlikely to be frequently applied, AL.com reported. But he also said that the measure will work for those who are considered for parole.
“I think it’s a good law,” Ward said. “I think it’s a good deterrent.”
Some legal groups have raised concerns about the use of forced medication.
Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, believes the new measure likely violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
“It’s not clear that this actually has any effect and whether it’s even medically proven,” Marshall said according to AL.com. “When the state starts experimenting on people, I think it runs afoul of the Constitution.”
Hurst said that victims of child abuse are affected for a lifetime, and as such, the abusers should also face lifelong consequences.
“What’s more inhumane than molesting a small, infant child?’ Hurst asked according to AL.com.
Dr. Frederick Berlin, founder of a sexual disorders clinic at John Hopkins University, said in a 2016 interview with CBS News that in some instances, lowering testosterone levels can help reduce libido and sexual urges, and may have an effect on recidivism.
But not all sex offenses are sexually motivated. Berlin explained: “There are many sex offenders who aren’t driven by intense sexual urges. Some of these folks have other mental health issues, so it could just lull us into a false sense of security.”
Other states have also considered chemical castration for child predators. In California, a bill was passed in the 1990s for repeat child sex offenders. Similar measures exist in other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, and Texas.
In Texas, the castration procedure cannot be a condition for parole and the sex offender has to request the procedure. In Michigan, a law used to exist to mandate chemical castration as a condition for parole, but in 1984, an appeals court ruled that it was unlawful.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.