Child sex abusers in Alabama will have to be chemically castrated before they are granted parole.
The new law, backed by Alabama’s legislature last week and signed by governor Kay Ivey yesterday, will force some convicted pedophiles to take medication to reduce their sex drive.
Inmates will also have to pay for the treatment, which applies to sex crimes involving children under 13.
The treatment will continue until a judge rules it to be ‘no longer necessary’. If the offender stops taking their medication they will be returned to jail.
The bill was championed by Republican lawmaker Steve Hurst, who said: ‘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 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.
‘They have marked this child for life and the punishment should fit the crime,’ he told local radio.
However, some legal groups have questioned the legality of forced medication, suggesting that it violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment prohibits the government from inflicting ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ on its citizens.
Critics also note that those required to take drugs to reduce their sexual urges suffer from serious side effects, including life threatening blood clotting and allergic reactions.
‘We certainly think that it raises constitutional concerns,’ Randall Marshall, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, has said.
Defending the measure, Hurst said: ‘I had people call me in the past when I introduced it and said don’t you think this is inhumane?
‘I asked them 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.
‘If you want to talk about inhumane – that’s inhumane.’
The law makes Alabama the ninth state to provide for chemical castration – although it is rarely carried out in practice.
California was the first state to allow chemical castration for certain sex offenders, who can be required to receive medroxyprogesterone (MPA), an artificial female hormone used to treat symptoms of menopause.
When used by men, MPA reduces testosterone to pre-puberty levels.
Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Oregon, Montana, and Wisconsin also have laws on the books allowing courts to order castration before a sex offender is released from prison.
In Louisiana, castration is a condition of sentence reduction or suspension.
The castration laws in California, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, and Wisconsin only apply to sex offenders who have committed crimes against minors.
California, Florida, and Louisiana give sex offenders the option of chemical or surgical castration, which is the physical removal of testicles.
Early versions of the bill, which did not pass, would have mandated permanent surgical castration.