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September 21, 2009

Are there reliable data on the efficacy of chemical castration?

This question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting new piece out of Australia, which discusses the idea of chemical castration for certain sex offenders.  Here excerpts from the piece:

A recent spate of stories about sex offenders has put chemical castration back in the spotlight, sparking ethical concerns and warnings about its effectiveness.

The group of drugs used for chemical castration stops the actions of sex hormones by blocking testosterone, which underlies sexual impulses and sexual feelings. With reduced libidos, the aim is to reduce the impulse of convicted rapists, molesters and paedophiles to offend again.

But Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope considers chemical castration a human rights abuse, no matter how serious the offender in question is. "We consider it to be cruel and inhumane and it's like the death penalty, as subsequently if somebody's found out to be innocent you can't take it back," he told ABC News Online.

Mr Cope says the whole idea of chemical castration — which has been used across Australia and the world for decades — is based on the wrong premise. "It's not directed at what sex offences are actually about — which is power — which is what most people accept these days. Castrating people and trying to remove their urge is not the answer to it," he said....

But the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists president-elect, Louise Newman, believes chemical castration, which works as long as the patient stays on the medication, should be considered for the more "hard core" sexual offenders.

"It's certainly not a cure or a way of reducing all risk, but it might be seen as a useful component of treatment or management for some of these very difficult cases, where we're unlikely to see response to other methods," Professor Newman told ABC News Online. "They're not commonly used at all and they are not needed other than in the fairly difficult group of very severe offenders."

This kind of story drive me crazy, because it does not tell me what I really want to know — the article reports that chemical castration "has been used across Australia and the world for decades," but it does not have any discussion how effective this alternative sentence has been.

September 21, 2009 at 07:29 AM | Permalink


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What I hate is when conflicting claims are made in such articles. Which is it, is the effect permanent or does it end if the drugs are discontinued? Certainly you can't take it back for the period that the drugs were administered, but that is true for most everything. Certainly true for people sitting in prisons.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 21, 2009 10:52:25 AM

It may be that there's not enough data to draw conclusions. We (technically) allow surgical castration of sex offenders in Texas, but to my knowledge it's only been used 3 or 4 times. Hard to develop solid recidivism data at those levels.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Sep 21, 2009 11:32:19 AM

Very expensive shots of female hormone analogs are given, for example Lupron, at $400. These are strictly at the request and for the benefit of the offender. The latter needs help controlling impulses. These reduce sex drive in a non-specific way. Skip a week, sex drive comes roaring back. It reduces the internal struggle of the offender to control himself by lowering sexual drive.

A feminist misconception is also promulgated in this post, "Rape is about power." Perhaps feminism is about power, but rape is about sex. Old females are weak but not sexually attractive. Young females are strong but sexually attractive. The overwhelming number of rapes are against young females, especially those in date situations. One may conceive of rape as a short cut courtship by a totally selfish, vicious, violent, impulsive, heartless, entitled lawyer client, protected by the lawyer, and feeling no empathy or need for empathy for the victim's feelings caused by his poor courtship skills. Most go unreported because the victim gets destroyed by the lawyer, who wants no interference with the lawyer client's lifestyle.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 21, 2009 3:01:08 PM

I do have to say, the "rape is about power" line gets a little tiring. First, there is no evidence to support such a claim, aside from Freudian divination. Indeed, the fact that castration stops offenders from reoffending would seem to show that rape is, in large measure, about sex. But even if rape is motivated by power, it is committed through a forcible sex act. Take away the ability to commit the sex act, and you take away the ability to rape.

How about this for a proposal: offer anyone who molests a child or commits forcible rape a choice to (1) register as a sex offender, or (2) take meds to eliminate his sex drive. I'd be curious to see how many offenders jump for the latter...

Posted by: Res ipsa | Sep 21, 2009 5:18:24 PM

Surgical castration has been shown to greatly reduce recidvism in a variety of violent crimes. http://www.jaapl.org/cgi/content/abstract/33/1/16

Posted by: ohwilleke | Sep 21, 2009 6:57:43 PM

Prof. Berman expresses frustration at the failure to mention any data on effectiveness. The aim of these left wing ideologues is not to help prevent victimization nor to help offenders get better. It is to generate lawyer business by a dispute on the human rights violation of these technologies. They do not care about outcomes.

Any time lawyer conduct is puzzling, self-defeating, weird, the opposite of sensible, and even frustrating, the rent seeking theory can explain it.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 21, 2009 11:04:52 PM

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