North Alabama expert weighs in on new chemical castration law for some sex offenses

North Alabama expert weighs in on new chemical castration law for some sex offenses

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WAFF) - Alabama is making national news again in the wake of new legislation.

Gov. Kay Ivey just signed a law that requires certain sex offenders to be chemically castrated before their parole.

It’s garnering feedback across the country and on Tuesday, it was a trending story.

Dr. Frankie Preston is a forensic psychologist who for decades, ran a group treatment program for sex offenders and a sex re-offense prevention program in the Huntsville area.

Preston is a highly regarded clinical psychologist who has also evaluated more than 60 murder cases.

In an interview at his office in Madison, he said there’s a lot of different factors at play with Alabama’s new chemical castration law.

“In terms of classifying offenders, offenses and also defining what kinds of medical complications that might arise as a consequence of administration,” Preston explained.

On Monday, Ivey signed into law a measure requiring anyone convicted of sex crimes with children younger than 13 to be chemically castrated as a condition of parole.

Chemical castration involves the injection of medication that blocks hormone production.

Preston says there’s certain people that it would be appropriate for, like sadistic abductor-type offenders, but the financial and practical application of it would likely fall on the state.

The parolee is required to pay for all of the costs associated with treatment. If they can’t afford it, they’ll have to go to court for a determination of indigency.

“I think the important issue is having further definition about the types of offenses, the kinds of medicines and the ways they would be monitored and administered,” Preston said.

A parolee who stops receiving treatment is guilty of a Class C felony, according to the law.

Alabama is at least the seventh state allowing or requiring physical or chemical castration of some sex offenders, joining California, Florida, Louisiana, Montana, Texas and Wisconsin. In most of those states, the treatment is a reversible chemical procedure, and in many of them, it is an optional process for which offenders can volunteer to win or speed up their parole.

Under the new law, offenders required to undergo the reversible procedure must begin the treatment at least a month before their release dates and continue treatments until a judge finds that it's no longer necessary.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Steve Hurst, a Republican representing Calhoun County, who said that if he had his way, offenders would be permanently castrated through surgery.

"The more we can learn what it does to stop people from doing something like this. the much better we’ll be. And I hope and pray to the good Lord that it works, and I hope and pray that we save some children’s lives,” Hurst said. "People say this is inhumane. How can it be any more inhumane than molesting a small child? Now that’s one of the most inhumane things there are.”

The Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, opposed the measure as unconstitutional.

"It really misunderstands what sexual assault is about. Sexual assault isn't about sexual gratification. It's about power it's about control,” said Randall Marshall with the ACLU of Alabama.

When asked if child sex abuse is a physical or mental issue, Preston responded: “Just like all murderers are not alike, all sex offenders are not alike. There’s individual differences, backgrounds, mental health issues, one must consider in terms of alleviating certain behaviors and attitude.”

He added that there are mechanisms like assessments that can help doctors distinguish if a sex offender is suffering from a mental disorder or from a “behavioral deviance that’s done outside the realm of normal sexual desire.”

Here is the language in the law:

Relating to sex offenses; to provide chemical castration treatment conditions for the parole of persons convicted of a sex offense under certain conditions; to require the Department of Public Health to administer the treatment; and to require the cost of the treatment to be paid for by the offender, with exception.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:

Section 1. (a) As used in this act, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

(1) CHEMICAL CASTRATION TREATMENT. The receiving of 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.

(2) SEX OFFENSE INVOLVING A PERSON UNDER THE AGE OF 13 YEARS. A sex offense, as described in Section 15-20A-5, Code of Alabama 1975, that is committed against a person who has not attained the age of 13 years.

(b) Subject to Section 15-22-27.3, Code of Alabama 1975, as a condition of parole, a court shall order a person convicted of a sex offense involving a person under the age of 13 years to undergo chemical castration treatment, in addition to any other punishment prescribed for that offense or any other provision of law.

(c) A person required to undergo chemical castration treatment shall begin the treatment not less than one month prior to his or her release from custody of the Department of Corrections and shall continue receiving treatment until the court determines the treatment is no longer necessary. The treatment shall be administered by the Department of Public Health.

(d)(1) The parolee shall pay for all of the costs associated with the chemical castration treatment. The cost of the treatment shall be in addition to any court costs; assessments for crime victim’s compensation fund; Department of Forensic Sciences assessments; drug, alcohol, or anger management treatments required by law; restitution; or costs of supervision of the treatment. A person may not be denied parole based solely on his or her inability to pay for the costs associated with the treatment required under this act.

(2) If a person required to receive chemical castration treatment under this act, upon application, claims indigency, he or she shall be brought before a court of competent jurisdiction for a determination of indigency. In the event that a court determines the offender to be indigent, any fees or costs shall not be waived or remitted unless the person proves to the reasonable satisfaction of the court that the person is not capable of paying the fees or costs within the reasonably foreseeable future. In the event the offender is determined to be indigent, a periodic review of the offender's indigent status may be conducted by the court upon motion of the district attorney to determine if the offender is no longer indigent.

(e) In addition to any condition of parole under subsection (b), as a condition of parole, a parolee released on parole under this act shall authorize the Department of Public Health to share with the Board of Pardons and Paroles all medical records relating to the parolee's chemical castration treatment. A parolee may elect to stop receiving the treatment at any time and may not be forced to receive the treatment; provided, such refusal shall constitute a violation of his or her parole and he or she shall be immediately remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections for the remainder of the sentence from which he or she was paroled.

(f) Prior to the administration of any chemical castration treatment, the court shall inform the parolee about the effect of the treatment and any side effects that may result from it. The parolee shall sign a written acknowledgment of receipt of the information.

(g) Only a bona fide employee of the Alabama Department of Public Health may administer the treatment.

(h) A parolee who intentionally stops receiving the treatment required under this Act shall be guilty of a Class C felony.

Section 2. This act shall become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.

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