MONTGOMERY — Court-ordered chemical castration of child molesters as a condition of their parole will soon be required in Alabama, but exactly how the treatments will be administered is still being determined.

The law, signed by Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday, goes into effect in three months. It requires the Alabama Department of Public Health to administer the treatment.

“We’re still reviewing (the law) to understand exactly how our role will work,” Public Health Officer Scott Harris said this week. “We’ve done some work looking at other states, trying to get an idea of how it works.”

House Bill 379, sponsored by Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, requires that anyone who committed a sex offense against a child younger than 13 receive prior to parole medication, “including, but not limited to, 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 bill references male and female offenders receiving treatment. It would begin one month prior to release and continue it “until the court determines the treatment is no longer necessary."

Hurst has carried sex offender castration legislation for several years and said it's been a priority for him since entering the Legislature. His original legislation involved surgical castration.

“I don’t tease and I don’t joke about this. These kids need some help out there,” Hurst said. “If someone is going to mark these kids for life, they need to be marked for life. That’s why I looked at surgical castration, and my own opinion is that if they decide to do that to a small child they deserve to die.”

It's unclear how many potential parolees could seek treatment. The Alabama Department of Corrections and the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole didn't have numbers on offenders who would qualify.

"I know that ever since I have been on the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I have never approved parole for anyone convicted of such a crime," said Lyn Head, chair of the board and a member since 2016.

Offenders must pay for the cost of treatment, but fees will be waived for any offenders deemed indigent. Offenders can’t be denied parole because of inability to pay for chemical castration, according to the law.

A fiscal note on the bill does not say how much the treatments cost.

Harris said his preliminary understanding is that the injections are weekly and the medication most states use is about $65 a dose.

Hurst said offenders will not have to take the medication if they remain in prison to serve their sentence.

“If you stay to serve the duration of your time, you don’t have to take anything,” Hurst said. “But if you do prove to be indigent you have to come back periodically to prove that you are still indigent, but also when people are on parole they can start a job which would then help them pay for the medication, so that would be one way.”

Harris said offenders will likely go to local departments of health for the injections.

“But we haven’t had any discussions to understand what the logistics will be," he said. "We just don’t know yet.”

Asked about offenders being at health departments when children are there receiving other services, Hurst said that's going to be addressed.

"We've already got some meetings scheduled for how we need to pursue it and what legal issues may occur," Hurst said.

Sexual offenses against children younger than 13 that chemical castration now applies to include rape, sexual misconduct, indecent exposure, promoting prostitution, unlawful imprisonment and human trafficking.

Parolees can stop treatment at anytime, but it would be a violation of parole and offenders will be returned to ADOC custody to finish their sentence. Parolees who intentionally stop treatment could be guilty of a Class C felony.

Hurst's bill was approved 71-to-16 in the Alabama House and 27-to-0 in the Senate.

Those who voted against the bill in the House echoed a lot of the same concerns they had about Alabama’s new anti-abortion law passed in May, saying it inhibited a person’s rights and bodily autonomy.

“I voted no on it for the same reason that I voted no on the abortion," Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, said. "It’s not a matter of whether you support or against it in principle, it’s about being able to legislate what happens to people’s bodies. There are also just more important issues that we should have dealt with during that session.”

Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, said she voted no because of the possibility parolees might later be proven innocent by new DNA testing that has been used in some recent criminal cases.

“They go in and find someone who is supposedly guilty and castrate that person then you determine through DNA that that is the wrong person, look at what you would have put that person through and they were innocent the whole time,” Moore said. “It’s basically like the abortion bill, you are taking away an individual's right.”

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, worried that the new law could violate constitutional rights.

“There was also some discussion about the chemicals used, and the impact of it and whether or not it was actually effective,” England said. “So out of caution I voted no. I definitely don’t want to create legal challenges just because of what one drug is used for and the purpose of what it is, I didn’t want to run afoul of the Constitution.”

Randall Marshall, the executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said he thinks the law is unconstitutional.

"But the challenge wouldn’t occur until a judge actually orders chemical castration,” Marshall said. “If that came to our attention, we’d probably be involved. But there is not an immediate challenge on the path to law."

California was the first state, in 1996, to pass a chemical castration law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Several others followed. Georgia and Oregon repealed their laws in 2006 and 2001, respectively.

Texas also has a law that authorizes surgical castration, according to NCSL.

Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Harvest, was the only Republican to vote against the bill. He could not be reached for comment.

The bill also says that the medication can be changed and manipulated if it is proving to be ineffective with the offender.

Hurst also said that he is committed to seeing this treatment work and wants to create a task force or commission that would track the affects the medication has on offenders.

“I want to make sure it works, so we want to try to figure out some way to track each one of these people and look at how it works on them, what does their DNA look like and look at blood tests and let the doctors look at it and decide what kind of medication works on who,” Hurst said. “I want this to be successful because I want to save some of those kids. That’s all it is, that’s my objective.”

The law goes into effect in September.

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