Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed a chemical castration bill into law on Monday, providing a new parole requirement for some sex offenders. The law orders that those who are convicted of criminal offenses, such as rape, sodomy, or incest, with an individual less than 13 years old must go through the treatment as a condition of their parole.

Chemical castration is a procedure in which drugs are used to reduce a criminal’s testosterone levels and sex drive in order to prevent them from committing another sexual offense. The aim of the treatment is to stop offenders from even wanting to commit another crime instead of attempting to prevent them from doing so. The procedure has been used by doctors for the past 50 years to prevent recidivism among sex offenders, with chemical castration laws in place in California, Florida, Louisiana and Wisconsin. Studies have shown that those who are treated this way have a substantially lower chance of committing another offense than those who aren’t.

Supporters of Alabama’s new law claim that it will help reduce the number of repeat sexual offenders, thereby making the state safer. The procedure, which parolees will have to pay for themselves, has been shown to reduce self-reported levels of testosterone and sexual deviance, giving some weight to these claims. However, critics argue that the law is unconstitutional and coerces inmates into receiving a treatment which they know little about. Because the only options are to take this drug or stay in prison, it is likely that many inmates will feel pressured into choosing the former.

This is the latest in a series of controversial bills that the Republican-controlled Alabama state legislature has passed. During this legislative session, the state has voted to effectively ban most abortions, as well as to slyly allow judges not to sign same-sex marriage certificates. Alabama is just an example of how polarized the country is, especially now that 47 state legislatures are controlled by a single party.

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