It’s probably one of the most popular horrible suggestions ever made: the state-ordered surgical castration of convicted child sex offenders.
While it sounds more like something that would be offered up by an anonymous blogger than a serious proposal made by an Alabama state legislator, it turns out the latter is true.
Birmingham criminal defense lawyers understand such laws have come close to reality in several states. While such a proposal might be quickly voted down by lawmakers, current public attitudes are such that such it could easily gain public support and therefore legislative approval.
The bill was pre-filed by Rep. Steve Hurts, R-Munford, in anticipation of the 2014 legislative session.
Specifically, the measure would require that anyone over the age of 21 who has been convicted of engaging in a sexual act with an alleged victim aged 12 or younger be surgically castrated before his release from prison. The procedure would be paid for by the sex offender.
It’s not clear what action, if any, would be required of female offenders convicted of the same crimes.
A similar measure was proposed by Hurst last year, though it failed to make it out of committee.
If you think such a measure could never gain enough support, consider that nine other states, including the southern states of Georgia and Louisiana, already have some form of castration requirement for sex offenders. Most of those require chemical castration, but a few do allow for surgical castration.
This proposal is just one more example of how sex offenders are treated differently than those suspected of any other type of crime. It also illustrates the importance of having an experienced defense lawyer on your side.
The reality is that even if your case is successfully appealed, surgical castration, which involves the removal of the testicles, can’t be reversed.
Conversely, chemical castration involves the administration of medication that depletes a person’s sexual interest or makes it impossible for him or her to perform sexual acts. However, the effects of the drugs are reversible if the individual stops taking the drug.
Some have likened the act symbolically to cutting off the hand of a thief.
Amnesty International has condemned the act of castration – chemical or otherwise – as “inhumane.” Side effects to chemical castration include osteoporosis, changes in cardiovascular health, heightened blood pressure and symptoms that mirror menopause in women.
Plus, there isn’t ample evidence that the procedure actually works. For example, if a serial rapist targets his victims out of anger or an intense desire to control, elimination of his sex drive won’t to much to curb the behavior.
As it stands, the penalties for child sexual assault are already extremely serious. Under Alabama Code 13A-6-69.1, a person who commits sexual abuse of a child younger than 12 commits a Class B felony, which is punishable by up to 20 years behind bars. The crime is defined as occurring anytime a person who is 16 or older engages a child 12 or younger in any form of “sexual contact.”
It’s worth mentioning that under the current bill, even with castration, the offender would still be subject to registering as a sex offender with the state, with all the additional requirements that entails.