Sexual assault and related offenses are by far the most common violent crime in America. Over 84,000 were reported in 2014 alone, and it’s severely underreported. So, an Alabama lawmaker wants to try and stem the tide, by not only forcing certain classes of sex offenders to undergo castration, but requiring them to pay for the procedure.
The bill, as written, is pretty straightforward:
…any person over the age of 21 years who is convicted of certain sex offenses against a child 12 years of age or younger would be surgically castrated before his or her release from the custody of the Department of Corrections; and to require the cost of the procedure to be paid by the adult 2 criminal sex offender.
Believe it or not, there are a few places in the U.S. where castration is a court option. But those eight states mostly use “chemical castration,” an injection of a testosterone-reducing drug called Depo Provera. But not even Texas is willing to make surgical castration mandatory; legally speaking, repeat offenders may request it, but they have to go through a psychological examination and confess to their crimes. And it’s a one-time offer: If you decide not to go through with it, or are rejected, the state of Texas won’t let you reapply.
Needless to say, there’s the issue of cruel and unusual punishment, and some have pointed out the danger in assuming sex crimes are only perpetrated by men. There’s also the open question of whether it actually works. Andrew Vachss, a noted author who has spent decades as a children’s court advocate, views the procedure as pointless, because it doesn’t change the mindset of the offender:
Violent sex offenders are not victims of their heightened sex drives. Rapists may be “expressing their rage.” Predatory pedophiles may be “replaying their old scripts.” But any sexual sadist, properly interviewed, will tell you the truth: They do what they do because they want to do it. Their behavior is not the product of sickness—it is volitional.
Vachss also points out that there are other sources of testosterone. Klaus Grabowski agreed to castration to avoid a life sentence, and then began obtaining covert hormone injections, before murdering a 7-year-old girl in 1980, years after he was castrated. Vachss’ concern is that the “cure” in question will actually accelerate offenses.
It seems unlikely this bill will pass, as there are severe constitutional challenges. But it might be worth asking whether it would work even if it did.
(via The Austin Statesman)