MONTGOMERY — An Alabama statute requiring chemical castration for certain convicted child sex offenders has not been used after being passed two years ago.
The law was national news when it was passed in 2019, but its lack of impact is mostly due to the relatively minor scope of cases in which it could apply. Originally enacted by the Legislature in July of 2019 and taking effect that September, the law requires that a convicted child sex offender whose victim was younger than 13 begin the chemical castration process before they can be paroled.
However, state law already prevents parole for offenders convicted of a Class A or Class B felony sex offense against a child under the age of 12.
The Alabama Department of Public Health, which is charged with administering the medication to parolees, told Alabama Daily News on Tuesday that it had not administered it to anyone at this time.
Under Alabama law, most sexual crimes against children 12 years of age or under are considered Class A or B felonies. Enticing a child to enter a home or vehicle for immoral purposes is a Class C felony.
Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, sponsored the original bill and said another reason for the zero impact could be that the law only applies to those under parole.
“If they serve their full sentence, it’s not mandatory to take it,” Hurst told ADN. “It’s only if they want an early out.”
Hurst also said that even if the law hasn’t affected any offender in Alabama yet, the threat of chemical castration can still be used as a deterrent to any future perpetrator.
“I just wanted to be sure that the public knows that these idiots who want to do something this stupid, that we are after them as well, too,” Hurst said. “My passion is to help those kids and to help keep these people off the streets as much as possible or, if they’re on the streets, have them medicated to where it’s not possible for them to do something like that again.”
Under the law, a parolee stopping their treatment would constitute a violation of parole and he or she would be returned to Alabama Department of Corrections custody to finish their sentence. If the parolee is proven to have intentionally stopped treatment, they’d be guilty of a Class C felony.
The law also stipulates that the offender has to pay for the cost of treatment, but fees will be waived if the offender is deemed indigent. A person can’t be denied parole because he can’t pay for chemical castration.
The legislation was approved 71 to 16 in the Alabama House and 27 to 0 in the Senate. Some Democrats and advocacy groups expressed concerns about its constitutionality and the effectiveness of the chemicals used.
The ACLU of Alabama lobbied against the bill when it was first introduced.
“From the onset of this law, we recognized that it was an archaic form of medical experimentation with no basis in the medical community and an unjust form of retribution for any crime,” Dillon Nettles, policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Alabama, told ADN on Tuesday.
“We are pleased to hear this form of experimentation has not been used to date by the state on any parolees; however, it has no place in Alabama law and what remains before us is a crisis in the dysfunctional Alabama parole system, which we urge lawmakers to tackle with the same vigor they put forward on this chemical castration law.”
Hurst on Tuesday said he may want to make some changes to the law during the next regular legislative session once he has further examined data surrounding the law since being in effect. He had previously advocated for surgical castration of child sex offenders.