24 Jan. – Legislative sessions in New Mexico often feature bills that generate controversy.
This year, a few House Republicans could shake up the Roundhouse with a proposal that would allow a court to order a convicted sex offender to undergo chemical castration as a condition of their parole.
Representatives John Block of Alamogordo and Stefani Lord of Sandia Park say House Bill 128 would give sex offenders an option for parole if they agree to treatment.
Lord said the program would be “voluntary” and would target felons convicted of sexually assaulting victims under the age of 18. “I don’t want sex offenders near our kids,” she said.
“This is about protecting the child,” Block added.
Chemical castration involves the use of drugs to lower testosterone levels, which can reduce a person’s sex drive. In the medical field, the process can be used to treat breast and prostate cancer.
HB 128 requires sex offenders who choose to undergo the parole process to begin treatment at least 30 days before their release from prison. Inmates who choose to pursue the option must pay for treatment unless they can prove they are in need.
While a parole offender cannot be forced to continue treatment, the bill says those who end the trial before a court determines it is no longer necessary will be in violation of their parole and charged with a felony of the fourth degree.
The State Department of Health would administer the treatment under the provisions of the bill. The measure would also require inmates to give the agency permission to share their medical records with the state’s parole board.
Jodi McGinnis Porter, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, noted that the bill does not yet include a tax report. “We are still reviewing the bill and have not yet completed our analysis,” she said.
California was the first state to pass a law requiring chemical castration for sex offenders in the mid-1990s. Since then, eight other states, including Texas and Alabama, have passed similar laws.
A 2013 study published on the National Library of Medicine’s website said the goal of both surgical and chemical castration is to “reduce testosterone to a prepubescent level, thereby weakening the perpetrator’s sexual urges and making them sexually deviant.” thinking and behavior is suppressed.”
The study said compulsory surgical castration has been practiced for thousands of years for a variety of purposes, including as a criminal punishment. It found there was “no robust data” on the efficacy of chemical castration.
However, the report said recidivism rates among sex offenders who underwent surgical castration ranged from 2.5% to 7.5% over a period of one to 35 years, compared to 60% to 84% for sex offenders who were “left untreated.”
Alexandria Taylor, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said there is no evidence that chemical castration “prevents sexual assault or sexual assault against children.”
“We are focused on primary prevention of sexual assault so that people never experience the harm initially,” she said. “We urge elected officials and legislators to focus on measures to prevent violence against children in our communities.”
HB 128 goes first to the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Lord said she hopes “it doesn’t get pushed aside”.