ST. CLAIR TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

“You took something from me that wasn’t yours to take: my innocence.”

Those were the words spoken by one of the victims of a 47-year-old Alexandria man who was sentenced this week to multiple rape charges involving two teenage girls.

The victim faced her abuser in Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones’ courtroom as he was being sentenced.

Her piercing words are haunting because they decry a wounded soul shattered by repeated acts of sexual abuse at the hand of a man decades older.

Rep. Steve Hurst hopes no other children ever says those words again. At least not in Alabama. After years of trying, Hurst this session ushered through the Legislature a bill that would make chemical castration a condition of parole for anyone convicted of sexually abusing a child younger than 13. A drug that limits the production of testosterone would be administered by injection with the intended goal of lowering a man’s sex drive.

According to the bill, the treatment must begin no less than one month before the offender is released from custody, and must be continued until the court determines it’s no longer necessary.

“I don’t want them to be able to harm another child,” Hurst said. “My only concern is protecting the children.”

It’s difficult to find anyone who’s sympathetic toward predators who sexually abuse small children, and, indeed, much of the social media response has been supportive of strict punishment.

“After a person hurts a child, providing they legitimately did it, (hate to say it but not all accused are guilty) there should be no questions,” one Facebook commenter said. “This is a good law to have on the books.”

“California and Florida passed the chemical castration law in the 1990s. WHY has Alabama waited so long?”

The bill, however, does raise some questions.

According to USA Today report, attorney Raymond Johnson told WIAT-TV that there would likely be a challenge under the Eighth Amendment, claiming "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."

Costs to Alabama taxpayers was another question raised. The bill requires the offenders to pay for their own treatments unless they are deemed indigent by the state, which happens often. In those cases, the state would incur the cost of the injections.

Others questioned to what degree guilt will be determined before chemical castration is implemented, pointing to cases like the Central Park 5 in New York where rape convictions were overturned.

“Read ‘The Sun Does Rise.’ Alabama has one of the highest rates of incarcerating and putting on death row innocent people,” one Facebook commenter said.

Every effort must be made to determine whether a suspect is guilty before administering the first shot to a parolee, including the examination of any and all forensic evidence. But protecting children must be our first priority.

Statistics indicate that sex offenders in general are three times more likely to reoffend than any other type of criminal, according to a report this week from Southern Maryland News Net.

“A Bureau of Justice Statistics study tracked a representative sample of prisoners released in 2005 in the 30 states that were responsible for 77 percent of all state prisoners released nationwide and examined their arrests through 2014. An estimated 7.7 percent of released sex offenders were arrested for rape or sexual assault during the 9-year follow-up period, versus 2.3 percent of other released prisoners.”

All of this depends on whether chemical castration actually becomes law in Alabama. It passed the House and Senate and was sent to Gov. Kay Ivey. The legislation, however, wasn’t among a group of bills Ivey signed during a special signing ceremony on today.

Her office says she's reviewing it. Not signing it would be a pocket veto, which would kill the bill. What do you think? Should she sign it?

 

 

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