The Alabama State Legislature passed a bill on Tuesday that requires criminals convicted of sex crimes with children under 13 to undergo chemical castration as a condition of their parole.
The bill, known as HB379, would require sex offenders convicted of child abuse to receive several injections of a testosterone-reducing drug to deter future predatory behavior. This punishment would be in addition to any jail time served or fines the person has already paid.
State Rep. Steve Hurst (R), the man who introduced the bill, told WIAT-TV “[Pedophiles] have marked this child for life, and the punishment should fit the crime,” Hurst told WIAT. “…What’s more inhumane than when you take a little infant child, and you sexually molest that infant child when the child cannot defend themselves or get away, and they have to go through all the things they have to go through?”
The law has been sent to Governor Kay Ivey to be either signed or vetoed. Here’s what you need to know about the proposed law.
Who Does the New Law Apply To?
Bill HB379 applies to people convicted of “A sex offense, as described in Section 15-20A-5,3 Code of Alabama 1975, that is committed against a person who has not attained the age of 13 years.”
The law gives child sex offenders the option of parole which was not previously available. “Under existing law, a person convicted of a sex offense involving a child which constitutes a Class A or B felony is not eligible for parole.” The bill reads, “This bill would provide that a person convicted of a sex offense involving a person under the age of 13 years who is eligible for parole, as a condition of parole, shall be required to undergo chemical castration treatment in addition to any other penalty or condition prescribed by law,”
The bill does not apply to criminals convicted of sex crimes involving people over the age of 13.
How Does Chemical Castration Work?
Under the new bill, sex offenders would be required to visit the Department of Public Health who would administer the “medroxyprogesterone acetate treatment or its chemical equivalent” Chemical castration blocks the production of testosterone rather than removing the sexual organs through surgical castration.
Medroxyprogesterone is used primarily as women’s birth control under the name Depo-Provera. The drug drastically lowers the testosterone level in men by blocking the hormone and can lead to decreased sexual desires and deviant behavior. The convicted offenders would have to undergo treatment before leaving prison or “not less than one month prior to his or her release from custody of the Department of Corrections.” The inmate would receive the medroxyprogesterone treatment “until the court determines the treatment is no longer necessary.”
There is no exact method for the court determining when treatment is “no longer necessary”. However, the bill authorizes “the Department of Public Health to share with the Board of Pardons and Paroles all medical records relating to the parolee’s chemical castration treatment.” It’s assumed that the court would defer to the Department of Public Health when determining whether or not the treatment is complete.
Prisoners Foot the Bill
In addition to undergoing chemical castration, the bill states “The parolee shall pay for all of the costs associated with the chemical castration treatment.” The costs will be in addition to any fines or penalties that the court has already levied on the parolee.
Offenders cannot be denied parole if they’re unable to afford the treatment. Parolees can claim indigency and “In the event that a court determines the offender to be indigent, any fees or costs shall not be waived or remitted unless the person proves to the reasonable satisfaction of the court that the person is not capable of paying the fees or costs within the reasonably foreseeable future.”
Convicts Have the Option to Refuse the Treatment
Chemical castration isn’t mandatory under the Alabama law but it does constitute a parole violation. Basically, parolees who don’t undergo the treatment will be sent back to prison. According to the bill, if “the person refuses to undergo the treatment” then “his or her refusal would constitute a violation of parole and would result in the person being remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections.”
Alabama isn’t the First State with Chemical Castration Laws
John Money was the first American doctor to employ chemical castration in 1966 via medroxyprogesterone acetate to treat a patient trying to suppress pedophilic urges. The drug went on to become the chosen method for chemical castration in America.
California was the first state to require chemical castration for child sex offenders. A modification to Section 645 of the California penal code in 1996 required chemical castration for any person convicted of child molestation with a minor under 13 years of age if they are on parole or it’s their second offense. Unlike the Alabama law, criminals are not allowed to refuse treatment. They can elect surgical castration over DMPA injections but must choose one or the other.
Florida soon followed suit in 1997 with a similar law, Statute Section 794.0235. Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin have all experimented with chemical castration laws in the past. Currently, criminals in Iowa, Florida, or California may be sentenced to chemical castration in cases involving serious sex offenses.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment?
The ACLU has argued in the past that the forced castration of convicted criminals constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” and is therefore unconstitutional. The ACLU has argued that chemical castration violates an offender’s right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment, violates rights of due process and equal protection, and also violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Chemical castration is not a foolproof way of stopping deviant sexual behavior. Men who undergo the treatment can still retain some sexual function and there are testosterone boosting drugs on the market that can counteract the effects of medroxyprogesterone acetate. It’s also been shown that even surgically castrated criminals have a small rate of recidivism.
According to a study published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science in 2013, “Chemical castration reduces recidivism effectively when offered to sexual offenders within the context of simultaneous comprehensive psychotherapeutic treatment.” The study also points out several health risks that can occur including “osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and impaired glucose and lipid metabolism. Depression, hot flashes, infertility, and anemia can also occur.”
The chemical castration bill comes on the heels of an even more controversial abortion bill that Alabama recently signed into law. The law banned abortions in Alabama with no exceptions for rape or incest and caused numerous protests and outcry from opponents nationwide. This most recent bill is nowhere near as extreme or polarizing as the abortion bill but all eyes are on Alabama right now which has led to the increased scrutiny.