"It could be cruel and unusual punishment," some argue, but others say it's a fitting punishment for a cruel act that will leave a child traumatized through adulthood.
To hurt or harm a defenseless child is one of the most heinous crimes that can be inflicted; it's an event that will plague the child for as long as they live. The worst is that even if the child represses the memory, it can have subconscious effects that can go completely undetected. Recently, there have been talks about how these sex offenders should be given the kind of punishment that fits the inhumanity shown towards a child.
"They have marked this child for life and the punishment should fit the crime," said Alabama lawmaker, Steve Hurst, who introduced the bill, known as HB 379. He suggested that they should undergo chemical castration before they are left from prison, as reported by CBS42.
Chemically castrating someone "reduces, inhibits, or blocks the production of testosterone, hormones, or other chemicals in a person’s body," the bill defined, according to People. What this means is that it could possibly limit or lower their sex drive.
When the idea was proposed, there were people who suggested that it was an inhumane form of punishing someone. But others believed that there was nothing more inhumane than scarring a child through an experience that would haunt them for the rest of their life.
Hurst said, “I had people call me in the past when I introduced it and said don’t you think this is inhumane? 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.”
It was suggested that having severe punishments such as this could limit the number of innocent children who become victims to sex offenders, who would think hard before they commit such a crime.
The bill, which will now chemically castrate sex offenders who commit crimes on children younger than 13 years before they go on parole, was signed into law by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, as reported by TIME. The state of Alabama joined around seven other states who have chemical castration in some form or the other.
However, people still raise different opinions about whether it's the right to deal out a punishment like this. "It could be cruel and unusual punishment," said Randall Marshall, the executive director of the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to NBC News. "It also implicates the right to privacy. Forced medications are all concerns."
It was also suggested by some that this form of punishment is ignoring the psychological aspects that prompt people to commit these crimes. "They really misunderstand what sexual assault is about," Marshall added. "Sexual assault isn't about sexual gratification. It's about power. It's about control."
Dr. Fred S. Berlin, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wrote for The Hill and said, "Prison cannot punish away sexual cravings for children, nor can it enhance the capacity to successfully resist acting upon them upon release... people who are sexually attracted to children need and deserve access to appropriate mental health treatment."
Some people voluntarily undergo chemical castration so limit their urge for such sexual deviances. “Chemicals that reduce sexual arousal can be useful for people who acknowledge they need help controlling their arousal and they want this type of help and they think it’ll help them, whether they’re incarcerated or not,” said Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD, director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, according to Rolling Stone. But she questions the idea of making it a general punishment for all. “This idea that for every person in prison for a sex crime, you need to castrate them or they’re gonna go out and commit more horrible offenses, is a gross generalization and demonstrates a great misunderstanding of the problem,” she added.
Through it all, Hurst maintains his stand on the issue and said, "If they're going to mark these children for life, they need to be marked for life."