« "Federal Drug Sentencing Laws Bring High Cost, Low Return" | Main | Following the industries that follows incareration nation (with only limited concerns about sentencing reform) »

August 29, 2015

"Is It Ethical to Chemically Castrate a Child Sex Offender?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this RYOT piece discussing an alternative sentencing debate afoot in Australia.  Here is how the piece gets started (with links from the original):

When it comes to its convicted child sex offenders, Australia is considering nipping the problem in the bud, literally.  The country may soon require perpetrators to be chemically castrated instead of sent to prison, VICE News reports.

New South Wales’ justice minister, Troy Grant, would like the treatment to be made mandatory since the rate of recidivism for sex offenders is so high, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  About 17 percent are arrested for a similar crime within two years of being released from prison.  Currently, sex criminals can volunteer for treatment, but are not required to undergo it.

Child sexual abuse runs rampant in Australia.  Thirty percent of the population reports having fallen victim to it in their lifetime, 10 percent of whom say the abuse was “severe,” a report by the Australian Institute of Criminology found.

Anti-libidinal treatment is nothing new.  In fact, courts in Western Australia and Victoria can already mandate libido-reduction treatment to convicts who have been deemed dangerous by prison standards.

In the US, child sex offenders could potentially be sentenced to life in prison; many opt to undergo anti-libidinal treatment instead of extended prison stays, especially since even after sex-offending convicts are released, at least seven states mandate they remain in confinement.

Compared to other offenses, recidivism rates for sex criminals in America are not as high. Only about 5 percent are sent back to prison within three years for a similar crime. Yet states such as Iowa, Florida and California can require sex offenders to be administered libido-eliminating treatment.

Sex offenders may not be a particularly sympathetic group since they pose a serious threat to the most vulnerable members of society, children. Still, many feel chemical castration goes too far.  

Both Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union in the US have condemned the practice, calling it inhumane.  “At first sight, forced chemical castration could be taken as a matter-of-course decision; however, it is incompatible with human rights, which are the foundation of any civilized democratic society,” read a statement by Amnesty International in March 2012.

In addition to the controversy around forcing people to take drugs they may not want in their bodies, the drugs used for chemical castration don’t come without their fair share of side effects, namely symptoms mimicking menopause in women.

August 29, 2015 at 12:17 PM | Permalink


I'm reminded of Justice Jackson's statement in his separate opinion in Skinner v. Oklahoma involving sterilization:

"There are limits to the extent to which a legislatively represented majority may conduct biological experiments at the expense of the dignity and personality and natural powers of a minority -- even those who have been guilty of what the majority define as crimes."

De facto medical experiments of this sort on humans are problematic -- something much less severe like whipping has been deemed cruel and unusual. And, I'm not even sure how useful it will be to address the harm in question. So, seems unethical in our own justice system; as to medical ethics I suppose it is a balance regarding the person's health. I can see it being done in some fashion for someone committed, not competent and in some fashion harming themselves without it. Still seems dangerous.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 29, 2015 3:06:46 PM


Posted by: Book38 | Aug 29, 2015 5:57:01 PM

That stat uses the guilty until proven innocent model.

See their own study. Measuring sexual offender recidivism

<alternative text

Posted by: Anon | Aug 29, 2015 6:46:24 PM

The ACLU defends, supports and empowers pure evil.

An 11 year boy cannot control his attacks on females in his vicinity. He has forcibly raped his little sister and his mother six times. By forcible, I mean, punching his mother in the face repeatedly, overcoming her on the floor, and having his way with her. He is now in a facility, where he has to be restrained every day from doing the same to female staff, teachers, and fellow students.

You assholes, here, solve the problem.

Because of the vile feminist, lawyer, ACLU, traitor filth, his treatment had to be devious. Not only did his challenging problem have to be solved, but it had to be done sneaking past the lawyer profession and extreme regulatory rent seeking filth in the state licensing oversight department.

He was pretextually placed on a medication that has suppression of sexual function and interest as a collateral side effect, but had another phony use in him, benztropine. It ended his behavior completely. He had good home visits, and eventually returned home.

Clinical care not only had to take on his extreme symptoms, but had to sneak past the vicious obstruction and threats of the the lawyer traitor filth.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 29, 2015 8:05:07 PM

Tyranny by anecdote, where have I heard that term before?

Since the legal definition of a sex offender has no basis in reality, just what the hell are we talking about?

I doubt that the homogeneity of SOs in Australia and the good old USofA are comparable, since there is no objective yardstick to measure them. However, I can compare members of the "legal" arts, er, I mean profession.

Posted by: albeed | Aug 29, 2015 9:53:59 PM

The legal profession is quite homogeneous. The hierarchy brooks no dissent from its 13th Century orthodoxy, and will destroy any one who is not a dumb ass and a pro-criminal rent seeker. It is a criminal cult enterprise. It has infiltrated the three branches and fully controls them. There is no legal recourse.

The public has to form direct action groups and beat their asses.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 29, 2015 11:14:21 PM

Saying this is "against human rights" strikes me as empty grandstanding. Year for year, being in jail is clearly worse than not having a libido.

That being said, for sex offenders, the recidivism rate for any type of crime is lower than for most criminals. Preach it...

Posted by: citizen | Aug 30, 2015 1:02:03 AM

Who says prison is "clearly worse" than such a physical punishment? If it is "empty grandstanding," is it so as well to be against whipping and other corporal punishments since such physical violence is "clearly easier" than imprisonment? Sterilization was particularly seen as inhumane, including to the people involved, in Skinner v. Oklahoma.

There is something particularly wrong about invading a body in this fashion. See also rejoinders on how torture and related treatment isn't that bad, since you know, we kill a lot of people during armed combatant and it apparently is acceptable.

The lower recidivism rate is notable, but that is a bit "empty" too if we don't recall what is at stake here. The chances of a thief acting again are deemed more acceptable on some level since sexually harming children is seen as particularly terrible. For cause. This results in some abuses but the mind-set is far from completely wrong. The problem is that overall the policies in place often isn't the best way to deal with the concerns.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 30, 2015 11:32:47 AM

The reason the lawyer ended the lash? It is a tool that is highly effective for personal and social learning (seeing others punished), and it is extremely cheap. The alternative? Gigantic penitentiaries formed by pious Quakers, placing people in cages for years, so they may have time to pray and repent. Big construction, each requiring hundreds of full time permanent government employees to cater to and to control the miscreant or the misguided penitent. Coincidentally, these grew the size of government and of taxation explosively in the early 19th Century.

The masking ideology, the hypocrisy? More humane. If that is more humane, let's here from the prisoner. Why not offer a choice, and see which is more popular? Will never happen because the choice of the prisoners who are not looking for a place to stay and 3 meals is obvious.

Joe, this is not an ad hominem reply but a possible explanation for your views: what is the fraction of your income or that of your employer that comes from government?

Mine is 100%. The government and the lawyer profession have enriched me beyond any conception I could have had. That makes me an advocate against my personal economic interest, and morally superior to everyone here.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 30, 2015 12:51:28 PM

In most cases, castration does not affect the "control" element of offending, only the "results-" oriented element (sexual gratification). Most offenses are conducted with controlling the victim's reaction as the motivating factor.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Aug 30, 2015 2:46:27 PM

Mr. Supremacy, loon though he may be, makes one good point about the punishments. If you want to find out which punishment is worse, ask the convicted criminals to choose. If most avoid imprisonment, then that's the worse one.

Eric Knight, seems like airy speculation.

Joe, that is a reasonable point on the effects of recidivism, but I think the basic point is best expressed by just saying that the crime is a serious one. No arguments there.

Posted by: citizen | Aug 30, 2015 4:46:51 PM

Citizen. The word, loon, is from the KGB handbook. Any dissenter from the utterly failed criminal law system must be insane and involuntarily committed. Aren't you embarrassed?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 30, 2015 5:22:01 PM

"Serious" is a bland word.

Theft can be pretty serious. Abuse of a child is another level of serious.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 30, 2015 5:55:59 PM

While I'm not sure that chemical castration is the solution to the problem, I am positive that the term "sex offender" is used too broadly in defining exactly what the problem is.
A DSM-V diagnosed pedophile shouldn't be painted with the same brush and terminology as the public urinator, the under-age teen having sex or the CP viewer who unintentionally downloaded from a P2P website. They are all cast as sex-offenders, but their crimes certainly aren't equal, they don't all deserve prison, and probably none deserve bodily invasion by governments .

Posted by: kat | Aug 31, 2015 10:14:01 AM

"Eric Knight, seems like airy speculation."

Ah, no. this was not speculation, airy or otherwise Rather, this observation is the result of hard, consistent empirical data, coupled with pychological evaluations that the critics love to point to to justify their idiotic registries and varous unconstitutional sex offender laws, and finalized by the overwhelmingly-low rate of recidivism for all sex offenses. I'm not even going to throw in my 20-year history of working with sex offender issues.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Sep 1, 2015 4:10:15 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB