Physical inhibition might be a more effective approach
The Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee debated last month whether violent sexual offenders could be rehabilitated by castration.
During the debate, they deemed the procedure “invasive, irreversible and mutilating.” As it stands now, the Czech Republic is the only country in Europe to allow surgical castration for sex offenders, while Poland is expected to become the first country in the European Union to try to impose chemical castration, a reversible process where certain hormonal drugs are administered to reduce or eliminate sexual desires by inhibiting the functioning of the ovaries or testicles, in some cases of pedophilia.
More countries in Europe are considering, at the very least, allowing if not requiring castration in certain circumstances.
U.S. courts have long battled with the idea of chemical or surgical castration (the removal of the testicles or the ovaries to stop the production of hormones) for sex offenders. While the heated battle surrounding the argument that imposed castration is a form of cruel and unusual punishment is likely to instill whenever and wherever the proposal is brought up, many have argued that for violent and repeat sex offenders, voluntary castration should be an option and that mandatory castration should be considered.
States like Washington have, in the past, tried passing legislation that would trade some years in prison for voluntary castration while others like Oklahoma have considered a bill to require chemical or surgical castration for repeat rapists. As of now, Texas allows surgical castration for repeat sexual offenders while California, Georgia, Montana, Florida and Louisiana allow chemical castration. Last year, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered state courts to require chemical castration for certain types of repeated sexual offences.
Both methods have been proven to be effective and reduce the recurrence of violent offenses. While some studies claim that the rate of repeat offenses after surgical castration drops from around 80 percent to 2.3 percent, others suggest a more modest but still meaningful decrease of 75 percent. These statistics are supported by numerous anecdotes.
Last week, The New York Times reported a story on a man who claimed that “having his testicles removed was like draining the gasoline from a car hard-wired to crash.” Twenty years ago, when he was 18 years old, he was convicted of murdering a 12-year-old boy out of sexual urges. He then spent seven years in prison and five in a psychiatric institution; during his last year in prison he requested to be surgically castrated. He claimed that his life has been much better since — he now works for a Catholic charity as a gardener.
Surely society agrees that there must be something mentally, if not physically, different about sex offenders.
If castration can really be proven to help whatever urges them to commit such heinous crimes, then it should at least be offered as an option, if not mandated by law in certain situations. If all states in the country allowed castration as an option, the number of offenses would decrease drastically.
Although it can be argued that forced castration, as a punishment, would be a cruel and unusual form of physical mutilation, it is not drastically more invasive than a vasectomy, hysterectomy or a sex-change surgery. At the same time, I understand the political incorrectness of my assertion, as the word “castration” carries an unfortunate torture-like connotation.
If we can argue that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment on the grounds of an eye for an eye, I can’t imagine anyone making a legitimate claim that in certain cases, chemical castration, which is reversible, is anywhere even close to cruel and unusual.
Certain violent, repeat rapists are sent to psychiatric institutions then to jail to serve their sentences, sometimes for life. It is argued that if castration was allowed, sex offenders could be rehabilitated faster and therefore would serve less time in jail to return as productive members of society.
I do not mean to seem like a sadist, but only make the unpopular assertion that if we can actually help someone by doing for them what their body physically can’t, we might be better at rehabilitation of sexual offenders.
If this is possible, then there should be no reason for us to forbid castration or to at least consider it as an alternative to life sentences, which neither cure the offender nor benefit society as we pay for their time in jail.