Should the United States Use Chemical Castration For Sex Offenders?

The term “castration” brings a chill to every man. The idea of having your ‘junk’ cut off is horrifying. It’s barbaric. Castration is like the archaic practice of locking someone in stocks or something that would be seen in a third world country, but not the United States But it’s not. It is used in our modern world, including America. Not only do many other countries have castration laws, but several of our states do as well. Even as recent as last year, states have been approving the chemical castration of sexual predators. But what is chemical castration and how does it work?

Typically, when people think of castration, they are thinking about surgical castration, or orchiectomy. This method of castration involves the removal of men’s testicles, which produce 95% of testosterone. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for the male sex drive, so what chemical castration aims to do is lower testosterone through the use of antiandrogen drugs. This has a  similar effect to what some birth control pills have on women. 

Even in places where castration is common, it is not used on everyone. The difference between sex offenders and sexual predators is actually quite significant. In a general sense, sex offenders are more nonviolent. A sex offender might be someone who has been arrested for indecent exposure or even child pornography. Meanwhile, a sexual predator is usually someone who has committed some violent act and is highly likely to commit the same or similar act in the future. Sexual predators are more likely to be the ones to receive castration.

Chemical castration is not permanent. It leaves the treated party with no permanent damage. This means that after the individual stops treatment, or if they discontinue treatment against legal or doctor orders, then they are highly likely to reoffend. 

In 2016, Indonesia instituted chemical castration, following several heinous crimes and an increase in offenses against children. The idea was to lessen the sexual offenses that Indonesia was beginning to see. Unfortunately, reported sex crimes increased in both 2016 and 2017.

Countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia are far more violent towards sex offenders, even going so far as hanging them en masse. In Iran, a man was even stoned to death for committing adultery. Then there are countries like Israel which have become a safe haven in the Middle East for violent criminals under The Law of Return. Israel has even released 60% of it’s sex offender population and does not have a requirement for treatment to be released.

Even Western culture has embraced the idea of chemical castration. Australia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, France, Iceland, Lithuania, the UK, Belgium, and even the United States all have some form of chemical castration. The Czech Republic allows for sex offenders to be either chemically or surgically castrated. California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin, and, recently, Alabama are all states that use chemical castration in their criminal justice system.

States vary in their implementation of chemical castration. The first state to implement a chemical castration bill was California in 1996. The California law originally applied only to repeat offenders. In Florida and Alabama, if a sexual predator is ordered to undergo chemical castration and refuses, it could result in a secondary felony charge. The treatment for chemical castration costs about $1,000 a month and it is the responsibility of the offender to pay.

While there are no permanent effects to the castrated individual’s genitalia, there are other issues with chemical castration. There are a number of medical side effects to the medications used in chemical castration. Some of the various side effects include osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and impaired glucose and lipid metabolism. Usually the ‘treatment’ is forced upon the offender which violates a number of human rights. This presents real problems when the recidivism rate is only lowered by 2% or 5%, after the projections had the recidivism rate decreased by 50%. However, sex offenders reoffend 67% of the time, which is drastically less than other crimes such as robbery, murder, and drug crimes.

Chemical castration does seem to have possible benefits, and has seen better results when combined with other methods like psychotherapy. However, the problem of consent revolves around the state injecting people with drugs against their will. This treatment is expensive and leads to other ailments that could potentially cost taxpayers more to address at a later date. In reality, effectiveness is minimal at best.

All of this would seem to indicate that chemical castration is not a good policy. However, just like any other rehabilitation, the treatment will see the most gains from people who actively want it. One thing that might help gain the support of those wanting to change is renaming it. Castration seems violent and permanent, but potentially rebranding the name and offering it as a part of treatment to those who want it could possibly lower the recidivism rate even more. 


Image: Wikimedia

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