Chemical Castration Essay, Research Paper
The United States has always sought ways of punishing criminals, but it has begun to seriously crack down on sex offenders, especially child molesters. President Clinton proposed Megan’s Law to the country, a law that required previous sex offenders to register with the local law enforcement agencies. This was inspired by the murder of Megan Kanka, a young girl murdered by her neighbor who was a convicted sex offender. Since the proposal, twenty states require registry and eleven of those require the lists of sex offenders to be posted in a public place. This was just the beginning of the harsh laws soon to be passed against sex offenders.
In 1996, California raised the idea of chemical castration, which had been previously contemplated. The idea of using Depo-Provera and other hormones started in the US in the mid 1960’s. Many states such as Michigan, Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts have tried to get the laws in favor of chemical castration passed, but were unsuccessful. Those states were not able to pass the law because, it was found to be unconstitutional. California was able to pass the law with an assembly vote of fifty-one to eight, and the senate passed it with a similar vote on September 17, 1996. The law was introduced as California Penal Code s.645. On January 1, 1997, the state began practicing this law. The new law stated that chemical castration would be mandatory for twice convicted child molesters in order for parole.
Chemical castration is an injection of medroxyprogesterone, or better known as Depo-Provera. The treatment begins one week before parole and continues weekly. The offender does have the option to refuse the injections, but then he/she can not be paroled and must remain in prison. The dosage will be in 400- 500 mg injections of Depo-Provera. Depo-Provera is a drug that lowers men’s testosterone levels which decreases their sex drive. In theory, this would prevent sex offenders from committing any more sex crimes. Numerous studies have been published that support the chemical castrations effectiveness, but there is also a lot of evidence that does not support the mandatory use of chemical castration on convicted sex offenders. This evidence raises a powerful question:
Statement of the Question
“Should Convicted rapists/child molesters be required to undergo
chemical castration before parole?”
Sex offenders deserve to be punished and there must be something done before they can be paroled. Doing nothing has little or no effect on their behavior and once released the offender has a good chance of committing a sex crime again. Attorney General Janet Reno alleges that the percentage of child molesters that are repeat offenders are as high as 75%. According to Fred Berlin, founder of Sexual Disorders Clinic at John Hopkins University, molesters have a recidivism rate of approximately 65%. These numbers prove that action must be taken against these offenders.
Several studies of castrated sex offenders have been published, which prove its effectiveness. Of sex offenders who have been chemically castrated, the rates dropped down to 15% which is still not perfect, but at least it is something. In 1991, John Hopkins Medical Center revealed a study of 626 chemically castrated patients, only 10% had committed sexual offenses five years after treatment. In Denmark and Sweden chemical castration reduces the repeat rates from 50% to 10%. In Holland, of 700 sex offenders castrated after multiple convictions, relapse rates dropped from between 17% and 50% to 2%. Even though it was not done by chemical castration, it still shows that severe action must be taken in order to reduce repeat offenders from attacking again. These studies prove that chemical castration is a successful technique when preventing repeat acts of sex offenders. When the treatment is combined with psychological therapy it has an especially high success rate with sex offenders who are driven by sexual fantasies.
The highest success rates are when the chemical castration is done voluntarily. In Texas, Larry Don McQuay had claimed to have molested over 200 children and said he would continue upon his release. He begged the judge to be castrated because, he knew what he was doing was wrong. Here the offender shows determination to get help. This raises the question of whether or not the treatment should be mandatory.
There are many groups and individuals that are opposed to the mandatory chemical castration of repeat sex offenders for various reasons. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is one of the largest groups to object to the chemical castration law. They believe that it violates “bodily integrity” because, of its potential side effects. These side effects which are caused by chemical castration include high blood pressure, gall bladder problems, weight gain, testicular atrophy , mild depression, malaise, hyper glycemia and rare changes in liver enzymes.
Another major problem with the mandatory chemical castration is that not all sex offenders are motivated by their libido or sex drive. According to Kate Thomas, Associate Director of National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment, and for Sexual Trauma in Baltimore, this law ignores this principle by making castration mandatory for parole, and not allowing those who could be helped by psychiatric care to be. In order to determine if the treatment would work an evaluation should be taken prior to the procedure, but this law does not require a medical psychiatric evaluation to be done. Once the procedure begins it relies heavily on the honesty of the parolees. The idea of basing a form of treatment on self report by the sex offenders is a major flaw in the law, according to Dr. Dickey, Head of Sexual Behaviors Clinic at Clarke Institute of Psychiatry University of Toronto.
Regarding the studies done in Denmark and Sweden, there were many flaws to them that disprove the theory of mandatory chemical castration. First, the studies were only done in a small sample which lacked adequate control groups. Second, this study can not be used to back California’s law because, all the patients underwent the treatment voluntarily. In another study 76% of sex offenders abuse alcohol, and one half of them committed their crimes while intoxicated. This fact supports the claim that sex drive is not the only or even the main factor of sex crimes. Sex offenders are also driven by malice or severe psychiatric problems.
Another main argument by the ACLU is that the law in California is unconstitutional. In 1942 the supreme court ruled that procreation is a “basic civil right of man”, and this law greatly lessens the ability of sex offenders to procreate. This group and others believe that it also violates the 8th amendment, claiming that this treatment is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. The law also violates due process and equal protection because, taken by women it is only a contraceptive and it does not decrease their sex drive. Besides being unconstitutional, and lacking accurate evidence, the law was not backed medically or scientifically.
The law in California was never supported with scientific and medical support, and can only truly work if the patients participate voluntarily. Patients who do not participate willingly can cheat by boosting their testosterone levels with other drugs that can be found in most gyms across the US. Even without other forms of drugs, approximately 50% of patients after castration were capable of having an erection. All of these discrepancies prove that mandatory chemical castration should not be enforced.
“Discussion and Conclusion”
In this paper the main question was whether or not chemical castration should be given to repeat sex offenders prior to parole. The argument made in this paper had strong ideas on both the pro and con sides. For the pro side the great number of research and evidence shows that the percentage of repeat offenders drop drastically due to chemical castration. The numbers were clear and convincing, however the con side rose some powerful points. Among the arguments were the side effects of the treatment, the unconstitutionality of the treatment, and the fact that sex offenders motivation is not only determined by a sex drive, but it can be caused by other factors such as alcohol or psychiatric problems.
On the pro side of the argument the numbers that were retrieved from the studies were clear and very supportive of the argument. Although most of the studies showed accurate numbers of chemical castration success rates, most failed to specify whether or not the castrations were done voluntarily and did not do research if they were not voluntarily done. On the other side the weakest point was regarding the side effects. It was not very convincing because there is not much compassion for a person who commits a sexual crime on another person. The fact that the proposal is unconstitutional could swing either way depending on the trial and the reasons offered. However, the fact that this proposal is mandatory is where the argument gets complicated. The treatment does work well for some, but it will not work for many others depending upon their drive. Their drive is broken up into two categories, the drive to commit the crime or the drive to get help and stop. Chemical castration works most effectively when the drive to commit such crimes are based upon sex drive, but if they are based on anything else, the fact that the libido is lessened is insignificant. Also, if they have a determination to stop, the treatment has much higher success rates. If they do not then the castration is pointless because, they can find ways around it by taking drugs that can be easily acquired in almost any gym.
Stated earlier was evidence that proved that chemical castration works at its most effective level if the criminal undergoes the treatment voluntarily. If the question was whether or not chemical castrations should be performed the answer would be yes. However, the question specifically states “mandatory”, thus the answer would have to be “NO!” As a result one may conclude chemical castrations should only be performed for rapists and child molesters who request it, it should not be done to all of them.