The Iowa Attorney General's Office was initially arguing in favor of keeping a convicted child molester incarcerated indefinitely in state-controlled housing before an expert consultant argued that the convict's transgender status meant that he should be released instead, as his lower testosterone levels meant that he was less likely to reoffend.
The release of Josie Smith, previously Joseph, from incarceration in Iowa has generated significant controversy in recent weeks. Smith had been imprisoned in 2014 after molesting a fellow student, though one report commissioned by the state estimates that he has molested a total of 15 youths over his life, some as young as one year old.
Lynn Hicks, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, told Disrn on Thursday that there was a great deal of misinformation surrounding Smith's release. "The notion that [he's] being released because of sex change or transition is not accurate," Hicks said, adding that Smith "has served [his] sentence."
"In Iowa there is a process in which sexually violent predators can be held beyond their prison terms if the state proves that they are likely to commit further sexual offenses," Hicks said. "So there's a separate civil trial after the sentence is up. Smith was supposed to be released last year so we filed a civil commitment to try to go through this process."
"It's a high bar. If you're going to keep someone beyond their prison sentence, you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they're likely to reoffend," he added.
Hicks said the state had initially argued in favor of transferring Smith to a secure mental health facility in Iowa that houses sexually violent convicts. Yet an expert consultant brought on to assess Smith's likelihood of recidivism determined that he was unlikely to molest any further victims, in large part because he had begun "transitioning" and had undergone significant estrogen hormone therapy.
"We originally believed that this person should be locked up for longer. That's why we filed our case to try to do so. [But] our expert's opinion was that we could no longer say that Smith was likely to re-offend," Hicks said.
Hicks told Disrn that the release is not unconditional. "Part of our request, and part of the judge's order, is that Smith will be supervised by the state for the rest of [his] life," Hicks said. Citing privacy laws, he did not say whether or not Smith has undergone any sort of surgery as part of the "transition" process. Nor would he say if the state would require surgery, or certain estrogen levels, as a condition of release.
The Des Moines Register reported earlier this month that Smith began undergoing "gender reassignment" in October of 2017. The paper also relayed that in November that Smith had been seeking out pre-operative medical treatment prior to undergoing "gender reassignment surgery."