On June 7, 2019, Alabama state lawmakers finally agreed on passing the bill HB379, a proposed regulation that aims to mandate “chemical castration” as a condition for granting parole to convicted pedophiles. Currently awaiting the governor’s signature for it to be an official law, this bill has raised many concerns among the ethicists and medical practitioners who believe that this treatment may not be the best solution and that it should be done with great caution.
Abuse of any kind, especially to children, is a despicable act that must not be condoned. The law is always after the safety of our kids and in its fight against pedophiles, we can say that the government already has its way of giving punishment mainly through putting these offenders in prison.
However, Alabama state lawmakers who passed bill HB379 believe that there can be other methods of giving punishment to these perpetrators who are after children. In the proposed law authored by Alabama State Rep. Steve Hurst, convicted pedophiles who have sexually offended children under the age of 13 are required to go through chemical castration upon the decision of a judge before they can get a parole.
This treatment would include receiving medication that would inhibit the production of testosterone resulting to a lesser drive for sexual activities. Under this bill, it is also stated that a judge, instead of a doctor, is assigned to advise the incarcerated offender of the possible effects of this treatment and that the offender can choose to stop treatment and serve the remaining term of conviction in prison.
If a convict stops treatment without approval from the judge, the act will be considered as a Class C felony which will result to 10 years in prison and a fine of not more than $15,000. The treatment is supposed to be supervised by the Department of Public Health, paid for by the parolees and will only end upon the judge’s decision.
Ethicists and medical practitioners have raised concerns on this bill citing certain points such as the safety of the procedure as well as the constitutionality of using this medical intervention as a punishment. Experts in the medical field have warned that this treatment may not be applicable for all and cannot be treated as a general response to these sexual offenders.
The fact that a judge, and not a doctor, will give the details of the treatment is what worries the medical experts the most. They firmly believe that proper information and correct administration of this treatment is a necessity in order to maintain safety.
John Stinneford, a law professor at the University of Florida who has argued about this treatment as “impermissibly cruel” in view of the Eight Amendment banning “cruel and unusual punishments”, believe that it is more of an act that destabilize safety of the public saying,
“It seems more like a symbolic gesture that may actually undermine public safety as opposed to a measure that would actually promote it.”
When asked about why he proposed this bill, State Rep. Steve Hurst told the media that convicted pedophiles “have marked the child for life and the punishment should fit the crime.” In the past, people have already responded to his proposed bill and questioned whether he believed that his bill is inhumane. To this, he replied,
“I asked them what’s more inhumane than when you take a little infant child, and you sexually molest that infant child when the child cannot defend themselves or get away, and they have to go through all the things they have to go through. If you want to talk about inhumane, that’s inhumane.”
At this point, the office of the governor of Alabama has still not announced any progress on the signing of the bill and it was not listed on the bills scheduled to be signed in the next signing ceremony set on Thursday.
Sexual perpetrators who are after children definitely deserve punishment for their crimes. But, the kind of punishment that should be given is something that absolutely needs to be carefully reviewed and considered as well. In the end of it all, the purpose of creating laws is to promote justice and fairness, and this is what should truly matter.
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