When we browse the comments on our paedophile offender articles on Facebook, we see the same call to action over and over again – castration. Our readers, like reasonable human beings, want to stop predatory men from abusing children by any means necessary. In this article, we explore the alternatives to incarceration – surgical and chemical castration, quarantining, and the use of the death penalty. Finally answering the question, ‘Is chemical castration of sex offenders the answer?’
Castration has been a topic of contention around the world for many years. Many countries have implemented chemical castration as a form of punishment for convicted paedophiles, or sometimes as a trade-off for a shorter sentence.
The question: is chemical castration the answer? Is it humane to castrate convicted criminals? And above all, will it stop convicted paedophiles from reoffending?
In this article, we shed some light on alternative punishments, with particular emphasis on the act of chemical castration, how it works, and whether it could be a solution to repeat sex offenders in Australia.
What is chemical castration and how does it work?
Chemical castration uses anaphrodisiac drugs to reduce sex drive, compulsive sexual fantasies, and the capacity for sexual arousal in both men and women. It’s important to note, however, that chemical castration does not eliminate sexual impulses altogether, nor does it sterilise the patient.
Chemical castration has replaced traditional surgical castration, where the testes are removed. While chemical castration is a less invasive solution, it is not permanent – treatment lasts for three to five years and once treatment ceases, the chemical castration is no longer effective.
To keep the libido suppressed, treatment must be ongoing… permanently.
The drugs used in chemical castration can cause side-effects including loss of bone density, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases and weight gain.
In 1981, however, 48 males were tested using a similar drug called medroxyprogesterone acetate. Over a 12-month period, no adverse side effects were recorded and chemical castration was recommended as a successful treatment (alongside counselling) for serial sex offenders.
Countries who offer chemical castration of sex offenders
Chemical castration has been trialled in several countries around the world including Sweden, Denmark, Canada and even the United States of America. According to research, chemical castration can decrease reoffending rates from 50% to 5%.
In June 2019, the Governor of Alabama introduced legislation which requires sex offenders convicted of crimes involving children under 13-years-of-age to be castrated before being released on parole. According to the new laws, hormone-blocking drugs must be administered until a judge – not a doctor – deems it no longer necessary.
Republican State Representative, Steve Hurst, was accused of being inhumane for introducing the bill to parliament.
“What’s more inhumane than when you take a little infant child and you sexually molest that child when the child cannot defend themselves or get away, and they have to go through all the things they have to go through?” Hurst said.
“If you want to talk about inhumane – that’s inhumane.”
Several other American states including California, Florida, Guam, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and Wisconsin have also introduced chemical castration.
Likewise to American State Government, Judges in Poland can also choose whether or not to castrate a sex offender.
In other countries around the world, chemical castration can be offered to convicted paedophiles in return for a reduced sentence.
Finland, Czech Republic and some states in the US offer chemical castration as an alternative to longer prison time. However, in Denmark, Germany, and Texas, chemical castration can only be administered with informed consent from the paedophile.
In Indonesia, chemical castration has been authorised for convicted paedophiles, but offenders who are released on parole must wear electronic monitoring devices.
Countries who have the death sentence for child sexual abuse
In 2018, India introduced the death penalty for convicted paedophiles following a series of high profile child sexual assaults, including the gang rape of an eight-year-old girl in Dehli.
For some perspective, India’s official crime data shows the number of reported sexual assaults on children increased from 8,541 in 2012 to 19,765 in 2016.
Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan also implement capital punishment to encourage a “zero tolerance to rape” in their countries. However, since reintroducing capital punishment, there have been arguments against it in India.
For example, Dr Anup Surendranath of the social justice group Project 39A raised the point that in 90% of all rape cases in India the perpetrator was known to the victim. Implementing the death penalty could further burden victims and deter them from reporting the abuse.
“Under-reporting is a problem because the perpetrators are mostly known to the victims and there are all sorts of dynamics at play that cause victims and their guardians to not report the crime,” Dr Surendranath said.
The victim would have to grapple with the idea of “sending a person they know to the gallows” which, in turn, could prevent them from reporting.
On the other side of the planet, South Carolina, Florida, Montana, Louisiana and Oklahoma maintain capital punishment for convicted paedophiles.
South Carolina offers capital punishment for the second offence of raping a child under the age of 11. Oklahoma passed “Jessica’s Law” which allows the death penalty for raping a child under the age of 14.
Louisiana has one man on death row charged with raping and sodomising his eight-year-old step-daughter – Patrick Kennedy. He was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to death.
What alternative treatments are there for paedophiles in prison?
Both chemical castration and capital punishment have arguments for-and-against. So what’s the alternative?
American therapists argue rehabilitation and court-mandated counselling is the non-invasive, non-threatening solution.
There are around 2,350 therapists across America who provide court-mandated treatment to sex offenders and according to research from the American Psychological Association, counselling can drastically reduce the chances of reoffending outside of prison.
In recent years, Australia has also invested significant resources into the development of rehabilitation programs targeted at moderate to high-risk prisoners, including violent sex offenders.
The programs focus on group-based therapy, understanding the problem (e.g. sexual offences), and increasing motivation to change. Additionally, specific relapse prevention and maintenance programs offered after a program has been completed.
Cognitive programs have also proven to be effective in Australian prisons – at times, even more so than standard group therapy. These programs aim to enhance:
- critical reasoning;
- interpersonal perspective-taking;
- socio-moral decision making; and
- victim awareness.
There has been some evidence to show that without rehabilitation, sanctions and incarceration alone can result in increased rates of reoffending.
However, communities and social justice groups around the world refuse to believe a violent sex offender can just “change” from counselling. It’s difficult to forgive a person who ignored the law, ignored all sense of reason, and sexually abused an innocent child.
The argument for quarantining paedophiles and other sex offenders
Image: The Fresno Bee
Another argument around punishment for paedophiles is quarantining, much like Coalinga State Hospital in California.
Coalinga is a mental health facility which was built in 2005 to ensure sexually violent predators are kept separate from the community. As of 2019, the facility houses 941 alleged sexual predators, 294 mentally disordered offenders, and 50 mentally ill prisoners.
California law allows violent criminals to be admitted to Coalinga indefinitely during treatment and rehabilitation under Jessica’s Law, a bill which was introduced following the beating and rape of a girl in California by a convicted sex offender.
Jessica’s Law is designed to protect survivors of sexual abuse and reduce a sexual offender’s chances of reoffending. Coalinga was California’s solution to Jessica’s Law, isolating paedophiles and sex offenders from potential victims and providing the opportunity for offenders to be rehabilitated.
However, treatment and rehabilitation are not mandatory for all inmates of Coalinga. At this time, only one-third of all inmates have chosen to receive treatment, and Californian citizens are paying millions in tax dollars to keep these criminals locked up.
Now, the question remains – do we want to fork out millions to have paedophiles and sex offenders quarantined from society? Additionally, do we want paedophiles to be released back into the community after receiving treatment in a place like Coalinga?
There are various punishments for child sex offenders in Australia and around the world… but no consensus on a solution
When it comes to punishing violent sex offenders and sadistic paedophiles, there’s no one consensus worldwide.
While chemical castration is becoming a safer and more humane alternative to surgical castration and capital punishment, there are arguments for and against the castration method, leaving both communities and survivors of child sexual abuse conflicted.
Is there a correct method of dealing with convicted paedophiles? Should sex offenders be castrated, or should prison sentences be more severe, even lasting a lifetime? Should Australian states introduce the death penalty for child sex offenders?