Many people consider sexual abuse one of the worst crimes a person can commit. In these circumstances, it has been proposed by some that such an offender should be punished, normally in addition to a jail term, by castration.Castration can involve the surgical removal of the testes. Or, “chemical castration” using hormones to dramatically reduce testosterone levels in order to effectively render the sex offender impotent. What is to be counted as a sufficiently serious ‘sex crime’, the type of castration to be used, and the circumstance under which it would operate are all variables in this debate. Nevertheless, the question of whether castrating sex offenders can ever be an appropriate societal response is widely debate. The Czech Republic was one of the first countries to legalize chemical castration. Poland, South Korea, Germany, Denmark, France, and Australia have followed. In the United States, states that have legalized “chemical castration” include Georgia, Iowa, Oregon, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Montana, Texas, Wisconsin and Florida
Dr. Martin Holly, a leading sexologist and psychiatrist who is director of the Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice in Prague, said none of the nearly 100 sex offenders who had been physically castrated had committed further offenses. Furthermore, a Danish study of 900 castrated sex offenders in the 1960s suggested the rate of repeat offenses dropped after surgical castration to 2.3 percent from 80 percent. In addition, a 1981 study conducted with 48 males with long standing histories of sexually deviant behaviour, found that 40 of these individuals given doses of medroxyprogesterone acetate for as long as 12 months had diminished desires for deviant sexual behaviour, less frequent sexual fantasies, and greater control over sexual urges.
A Polish government official said after Poland passed a mandatory chemical castration sentencing law in 2010: “The purpose of this action is to improve the mental health of the convict, to lowered his libido and thereby reduce the risk of another crime being committed by the same person.”
Governor Celso Jaque of Mendoza Argentina, announced in March of 2010, “By using medication that lowers the person’s sexual desire and with psychological treatment, the person can be reintroduced into society without being a threat.”
“To reduce these crimes against your children, Texas Governor Ann Richards, for example, advocates more prisons and ‘harsher’ sentences for sex offenders, especially repeat child molesters. Thus she’s pushing for more of a solution that does not work, a solution that only means I will take up bed space in one of the many new prisons she is spending millions of dollars on so that later I can commit the same crime.”
Aleš Butala of the anti-torture committee: “The delegation that visited the Czech Republic in March and April came across three cases in which sex offenders had committed serious sex-related crimes, including serial rape and attempted murder, after being surgically castrated. So surgical castration is not an effective treatment.”
“what is it that pushes sexual predators to want to give up their virility? I suspect it’s that they understand better than the rest of us that rape and most other sexual offenses have little to due with sex — and more to do with physical domination. Castration isn’t likely to stop a sex offender from preying on people. It will only change the way these predators go about their crimes. As Florida prosecutor Jerry Burford told the St. Petersburg Times: ‘I get a lot of people who are impotent that still commit sexual battery. It’s not their gonads that cause them to commit sexual battery. It’s their heads.'”
“One does not need to produce testosterone and/or achieve an erection in order to commit rape. Though it’s far less common, women commit rape against both men and other women. And rape can be and regularly is committed by men using fingers. Rape can be and is committed using objects. And as the NY Times article only briefly notes, castrated rapists have been known to rape again. Rape, just like sex, is not all penises in vaginas.”
American Civil Liberties Union: “Determined sex offenders can, in all probability, reverse DepoProvera’s effects with other drugs.”
A Council of Europe report responded to the Czech Republic laws on castration by saying: “Surgical castration is a mutilating, irreversible intervention and cannot be considered as a medical necessity in the context of the treatment of sex offenders.”
Hynek Blasko, the father of Jakub Simanek, a 9-year old boy raped and killed in 2009 in the Czech Republic expressed indignation that human rights groups were putting the rights of criminals ahead of those of victims: “My personal tragedy is that my son is in heaven and he is never coming back, and all I have left of him is 1.5 kilograms of ashes. No one wants to touch the rights of the pedophiles, but what about the rights of a 9-year-old boy with his life ahead of him?”
“some good and decent citizens claim that castration itself is barbaric. What is barbaric is what I have done to so many children; refusing to castrate me is barbaric to the children I will molest. Mandatory castration of sex offenders, whether for their first, second, or third conviction of a sex offense, is currently a violation of the United States Constitution because it is considered ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ But no punishment is crueler or more unusual than the pain I have caused my victims. Voluntary castration is not unconstitutional, but no state allows it.”
Donald Tusk, the prime minister of Poland, said in 2010 after the country passed mandatory sentencing laws: “I do not believe that we can call these individuals – these creatures – human beings. So in this case, we don’t need to discuss human rights.”
“Because castration programs can be effective at reducing recidivism rates among sex offenders, they obviously protect the safety, lives, and rights of future prospective victims.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has opposed castration on these grounds.
American Civil Liberties Union: “1. Mandatory chemical castration interferes with an offender’s fundamental right to […] refuse medical treatment.”
Bioethicist Arthur Caplan points out, while “prisoners are excluded from moral life… Americans have not reduced them to non-human status.”
In the United States, based on the Fourteenth Amendment, the procedure fails to guarantee due process of law – although the laws mandating the treatment do so without respect to gender, the actual effect of the procedure falls disproportionately upon males.
If an individual is falsely accused and convicted of a sexual offense, is castrated, and then later is found to be innocent through, say, DNA evidence, the state cannot appropriately compensate the individual for their wrongful conviction and castration.
Castration is an easy out in some ways for imprisoned sex offenders who would rather take their chances with castration than stay in jail, and, though, who might commit more sex crimes in the future.
Ales Butala, a Slovenian human rights lawyer who led the Council of Europe’s delegation to the Czech Republic, said to the New York Times in 2009: “Sex offenders are requesting castration in hope of getting released from a life of incarceration. Is that really free and informed consent?”
“The U.K offers castration in exchange for early release. South Korea opened a clinic last month for ‘voluntary’ chemical castration of sex offenders. Of course, if they don’t go along, their sentence is longer. There provisions are not so voluntary, and they’re ripe for injustice – torture on one side of coin and a long sentence on the other. What would an innocent person choose?”
For such a horrific crime, a suitable punishment is needed. Castration fits the bill perfectly. It has been shown that for many sex offenders, the crime is caused by both psychological and physical urges – no rational counselling will prevent a repetition of the crime. Thus castration does not only stop further crimes by the offender (one of the main purposes of any punishment), but it is a strong deterrent for prospective offenders.
Jaroslav Novak, chief of urology at the Faculty Hospital Na Bulovce in Prague, said to the New York Times in 2009: “This is not a very common procedure. We carry it out maybe once every one to two years at most.”
“None of this punishment/treatment paradigm need be administered with hatred for the offender. Inherent in the idea of lifetime treatment is the notion that reoffending may well be outside the control of the individual—without some help.”
“Our justice system, by releasing criminals like me into communities without effective treatment, now dooms countless children to abuse. And most child rapists get away with raping many children, some over and over before being caught.”
The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the coerced administration of any drug, including antiandrogen drugs for sex offenders, arguing that forced chemical castration is ‘cruel and unusual punishment’, and thereby constitutionally prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.
Matt Kelley of the Innocence Project, for example, says that castration is “just another ineffective and harsh punishment of sex offenders, and it’s not limited to the Czech Republic.”
We have done away with the barbaric practice of using physical pain or disfigurement as a punishment for other crimes in favour of a more enlightened system of reforming the offender in prison. What would happen if the suspect was later acquitted ? – the process could not be reversed. When the death penalty was applied, many people were found to be innocent subsequent to their execution – the same could happen here. Imprisonment and counselling to prevent re-offence would be far more effective.
The answer is to permanently detain and/or constantly monitor sex offenders in order to ensure that they do not offend again. It is not necessary to castrate them.
American Civil Liberties Union: “The United States penal system effective or not is designed to protect society from harmful members and to rehabilitate those who can eventually rejoin society. Chemical castration does not make sex offenders ready to face society.”
Court testimony has shown that many sexual criminals would dearly like to be free of their overwhelming sexual urges. For this reason, they often request castration in order to save themselves from themselves. In the same sense, forcing castration of repeat sex offenders can save these individuals from themselves. There are plenty of examples of these kind of individuals, but one particularly notable one is James Jenkins, a sexual offender held in a Virginia prison who castrated himself with a razor in order to relieve himself from his urges. He said in 2006 to the Washington Post: “Castration has done precisely what I wanted it to do. I have not had any sexual urges or desires in over two years. My mind is finally free of the deviant sexual fantasies I used to have about young girls.”
Castration is a humane alternative to life-long imprisonment, since the effects are claimed to be temporary and are intended to stop sex offenders from re-offending. It enables sex offenders to exist in society without being a threat, instead of a threat that must be imprisoned.
Even if castration is combined with a jail term, it is still a far cruder and less effective treatment than prolonged psychotherapy.
American Civil Liberties Union: “Castration fails to treat the psychological roots of sexually deviant behavior.
The argument that castration should be performed to “help the offender”, runs the risk of being “soft” on the offender.
“5. The state may not, without their consent, expose individuals to potentially dangerous medical side effects. The physiological effects of DepoProvera include temporary diminution of erections and ejaculations and a reduction in sperm count. The drug may also cause diabetes, gallstones, hypertension, fatigue, weight gain, cold sweats, nightmares and muscle weakness. The long term effects are unknown.”
“what to do with people who can’t take the drug because of the side effects. Would they have to go back to jail?”