By Mike Cason
Gov. Kay Ivey this afternoon signed into law a bill to require sex offenders whose victims are younger than 13 to undergo "chemical castration treatment" as a condition of parole.
The treatment consists of taking a medication to suppress or block the production of testosterone.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, and passed on May 30, the next-to-last day of the legislative session.
Hurst had sponsored similar bills for more than a decade and said his intention has always been to stop sexual abuse of children.
"I'm very serious," Hurst said. "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."
Hurst said he's heard from many victims of sexual abuse supporting the effort.
"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."
Other states have passed similar laws, including California and Florida in the 1990s.
Also this afternoon, Ivey signed into law a bill to create a commission of doctors, lawyers and other professionals to study medical marijuana. Lawmakers passed that on the last day of the session.
It was a scaled back version of bill legalize medical marijuana, which passed the Senate but ran into resistance in the House of Representatives. The study commission bill was a compromise.
The chemical castration law says sex offenders whose victims were younger than 13 will have to take "medroxyprogesterone acetate treatment or its chemical equivalent, that, among other things, reduces, inhibits, or blocks the production of testosterone, hormones, or other chemicals in a person's body."
The law requires the treatment to begin at least one month before a parolee is released. The parolee is required to pay for the treatment unless a court determines he cannot. The Alabama Department of Public Health will administer the treatments.
Randall Marshall, executive director of the ALCU of Alabama, said the chemical castration treatment has been rarely used in other states that have authorized it through law. Marshall thinks it likely violates the 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. "When the state starts experimenting on people, I think it runs afoul of the Constitution."
Hurst said children who are victims of child abuse are affected for the rest of their lives and said those who abuse children should face lifelong consequences.
"What's more inhumane than molesting a small, infant child?' Hurst asked.
Hurst said he has been haunted by the issue since he read an account from a foster care organization about an infant child being molested. His legislation initially called for surgical castration.
Sen Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, who handled Hurst's bill in the Senate, said the law will apply to a small number of offenders because many who molest children won't be considered for parole. He believes the treatments will work for those who are.
"I think it's a good law," Ward said. "I think it's a good deterrent."
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