For the second time in two months, Alabama has made national news. The last one involved abortion legislation. This time it is sex offender legislation passed and signed into law by Gov. Ivy.
The new law, HB 379, requires anyone convicted of a sex offense against someone under the age of 13 to start chemical castration treatment at least a month prior to release on parole.
The treatment will continue until a court determines it is no longer necessary.
Once an offender is released, if they decide to stop treatment, they will be found in violation of their parole and immediately go back to prison to serve out their sentence.
Ivey described the law as “a step toward protecting children in Alabama.”
Chemical castration works by reducing the natural levels of hormones that create a sexual drive.
One leading forensic psychiatrist, who prescribes chemical castration for patients, says the process is only effective in some sex offenders and needs to be coupled with therapy and medical evaluation.
Alabama’s new law requires that the parolee pay all costs associated with the treatment.
Sounds like a win-win until you read the fine print.
The law states that an inmate cannot be denied parole based on his ability to pay for treatment. Parolees can claim indigency and “if the court determines the offender to be indigent, any fees or costs shall not be remitted unless the person proves he is not capable of paying fees or costs within the foreseeable future.”
While it is admirable that our legislators made an effort to take a stand against child molesters, this law isn’t going to be very effective in doing so.
In fact, the new law gives 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.”
Lyn Head, Chair of the Parole Board, who has been a member since 2016, says she has never approved parole for anyone convicted of such a crime. That’s about to change.
The new law gives sex offenders a “get out of jail” free card. All they have to do is agree to chemical castration and they will be eligible for parole. They take a few injections while they are locked up and then the prison opens the door and lets them out with a promise to take their meds. Since they are such fine, upstanding citizens, we can certainly take their word on that.
I don’t think many inmates walk out of prison with money in their pockets.
If they are determined to be indigent, all fees are waived and they must continue to prove they are indigent. Is the state going to provide the medication or does that mean they don’t have to take it because they can’t afford it? And by the state, I mean, tax-payers.
Under the new legislation offenders will report to the Department of Public Health in the county they reside for subsequent treatment after being released on parole. This is the same office where children get wellness checks, screening tests and immunizations.
There is also no mention of the method for the court determining when treatment is no longer necessary.
Alabama currently has 11,000 registered sex offenders.
Law enforcement struggles to keep up with registered sex offenders who either don’t report or have moved without notifying anyone, and now they will be expected to keep up with the offenders who don’t report for their dose of medication. That seems to be an unreasonable expectation.
We will need an increase in the personnel for local law enforcement and local Departments of Public Health just to follow the guidelines of this legislation.
Is the state going to contribute to those expenses?
The new law is set to go into effect on the first day of the third month after it is signed.
The ACLU says they plan to file suit when a judge actually orders the castration treatment for someone because the law constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” which makes it unconstitutional.
Changing the laws to allow sex offenders the possibility of parole is not the way to make Alabama safer for our children, no matter what they agree to do.
Research puts sexual desire low on the list of reasons people assault children. The desire to take another by force has long been known to be primarily about power and dominance.
Studies also show that sex offenders in general do not suffer from higher levels of testosterone.
There is no single thing that causes individuals to commit sexual violence and there is no single cure, but it would have made more sense to change the laws to keep them locked up for life instead.