Alabama considers chemical castration for sex offenders
Published 2:36 pm Thursday, June 6, 2019
Some sex offenders in Alabama could be chemically castrated before being released on parole, under a bill approved by state lawmakers.
Lawmakers gave final approval to the bill last week and sent it to Gov. Kay Ivey.
Chemical castration involves taking medication that blocks testosterone production in order to decrease the person’s sex drive. At least eight states allow the procedure — including California, Florida and Texas— but it is unclear how often it is used.
The Alabama bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Steve Hurst, would require sex offenders whose crimes involved children younger than 13 to receive the medication before being released from prison on parole. They would then be required to continue the medication until a judge decided they could stop.
“If it will help one or two children, and decrease that urge to the point that person does not harm that child, it’s worth it,” Hurst said during debate on the bill in the House of Representatives.
Hurst began pushing the legislation more than a decade ago after hearing the story of an infant who was sexually abused by the baby’s father.
Early versions of the bill, which did not pass, would have mandated permanent surgical castration.
During the debate, Hurst acknowledged the measure was not a cure-all since it may not work for everyone and offenders could find other ways to molest children.
A spokeswoman for Ivey said Tuesday that the bill is undergoing a legal review before the governor decides whether to sign it.
Some legal groups have questioned the legality of forced medication.
“We certainly think that it raises constitutional concerns,” Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, wrote in an email.
The bill would require parolees to pay for the medication themselves, although fees could be waived for those who couldn’t afford it.
The legislation also would require that an Alabama Health Department employee administer the medication.
The department said in a statement that it is monitoring the legislation and awaiting the governor’s decision.