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Alabama lawmakers want to force chemical castration on people convicted of sex crimes against young children — which would seemingly run afoul of the constitutional amendment that forbids cruel and unusual punishment.
Yet the Alabama Senate passed a bill last week permitting chemical castration on prisoners eligible for parole, and the law is currently awaiting approval from Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. The castration mandate would apply to people convicted of sex crimes against children younger than 13, according to WBRC, a Fox affiliate based in Birmingham. It’s unclear whether Ivey will approve of it. Previous Alabama governors Bob Riley and Don Siegelman, both Republican, said they would support such legislation.
The castration bill was introduced by Republican state Rep. Steve Hurst, who supported Roy Moore’s embattled run for a U.S. Senate seat in 2017 and has repeatedly plugged such legislation. The bill would utilize chemical castration, involving a series of long-term injections or drugs to greatly reduce sexual libido. Surgical castration, or removing a person's testicles, is what Hurst said he would’ve preferred.
“My preference would be, if someone does a small infant child like that, they need to die. God’s going to deal with them one day,” he told WBRC.
Chemical castration was most recently legalized in Louisiana by Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2008, and it’s still used in states like California — which passed a castration law in 1996 — and Montana.
It’s unclear how often chemical castration, which remains controversial, is ordered on U.S. sex offenders. It’s also unclear whether it works. As a 2013 legal review from the University of Michigan notes, “even with a reduced sex drive, the drug does not absolutely prevent all male offenders from engaging in undesirable sexual activity.”
Still, it seemed like a worthwhile venture to Hurst.
"I had people call me in the past when I introduced it and said, ‘Don't you think this is inhumane?’” Hurst said, according to WIAT-TV, a CBS affiliate in Birmingham. “I asked them, what's more inhumane than when you take a little infant child, and you sexually molest that infant child … and they have to go through all the things they have to go through? If you want to talk about inhumane — that's inhumane."
"I had people call me in the past when I introduced it and said, ‘Don't you think this is inhumane?’”
This law, seemingly, would run afoul of the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment. That’s why University of Florida law professor John Stinneford anticipated California’s 1996 law would be struck down as an “obvious example” of cruelty, Stinneford wrote in 2006. He said there’s little evidence that such chemical castration laws have ever faced a serious legal challenge, he said.
“Because chemical castration is designed both to shackle the mind and cripple the body of sex offenders, it is doubly cruel, and should be struck down as a violation of the Eighth Amendment,” Stinneford wrote.
Speaking to WIAT-TV this week, Raymond Johnson, an Alabama lawyer, said he expected the legislation would be challenged if passed.
“They’re going to claim that it is cruel and unusual punishment for someone who has served their time and for the rest of their life have to be castrated,” he said.
Cover: In this June 18, 2015, file photo, prisoners stand in a crowded lunch line during a prison tour at Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)