Steve Hurst, a member of the Alabama legislature, has introduced a bill that would require sex offenders to undergo surgical castration.
They would also have to pay for the procedure.
Hurst's bill specifies that the requirement would only apply to people over the age of 21 who commit "certain sex offenses."
"They have marked these children for life," said Hurst, in defense of his bill. "They will never get over it. And if they've marked children for life, they need to be marked for life."
In the most gruesome way possible?
Surgical castration, of course, differs from chemical castration— a provision of the law on the books in several states, though it's unclear if many sex offenders actually undergo the procedure (either voluntarily, or as a condition of release), according to the Associated Press.
Nevertheless, castration isn't a particularly reliable or effective way of deterring serial sexual abusers of children. According to The Daily Beast:
"It's naive to think this is a panacea," Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of The Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic, told The Washington Post decades ago, a position he has maintained every subsequent time a reporter has called asking for his opinion on the matter. Not only is it wrong to use a medical treatment as punishment, he has said, but there's no reason to believe it will have the intended effect.
This is not the first time Hurst has introduced such a bill. He's actually mounted a quixotic campaign to force sex offenders to be castrated for years. It's unlikely he'll have any more luck this time, thank goodness.
But rest assured: neither a lack of evidence that this approach works, nor a lack of evidence that this is a widespread or worsening problem requiring such a solution, will stop Hurst from trying.