Castration. It’s a cringe-worthy word that invokes, at least among men, an almost sickening feeling of pain and disgust. I should know — I am one, and you should have seen the face I made just typing out that last sentence.
It’s also the topic of an international debate over how to more effectively punish and rehabilitate sex offenders, specifically those that are convicted of crimes against children. To be fair, the recent conversations regard the practice of chemical castration and not physical castration, which seems a bit easier and less controversial to talk about.
The process of chemical castration can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but the end result is usually similar. Once medication has been administered, either orally or in shot form, a male subject basically loses all sex drive and is also physically unable to perform sexual acts.
So it isn’t as if countries (well, except for Moldova and a few other places) are prepared to go around chopping off guys’ twig and berries. That isn’t to say that I would have a problem with convicted child rapists having their johnsons sliced off with a filet knife. But once you start hacking off wieners, eventually an innocent man somewhere is going to end up as a eunuch, and that is something we should probably try to avoid.
One positive factor for chemical castration, especially when chosen as a form of punishment by convicted sex offenders, is the high cost of housing a prisoner for a year.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, it costs $44,000 to house a general population inmate in the New Jersey prison system. The cost of a year’s supply of the testosterone-lowering drug Depo-Lupron? A little over $9,000 a year. Financially, this method seems to make sense, and if the goal of our prison system is supposedly rehabilitation rather than retribution, chemical castration definitely has the upper hand over an offender getting assaulted by other inmates.
Chemical castration is not just some phenomenon that we are seeing in developing nations, nine U.S. states have some form of chemical castration written into their laws, though it is unclear how often chemical castration is administered in the U.S.
There have been documented cases though, as in the case of “Jimmy,” a 31-year-old man convicted on multiple counts of exposing himself to women in cars. In an interview with The Daily Beast, he said that even though he believes the Depo-Lupron doses have had some negative side effects on his health, he welcomes the drug and would like to continue taking it.
As to how long Jimmy will continue his doses, Jimmy simply stated, “Until I feel I can come off it safely.” Jimmy, a resident of Maryland, has been taking the medication voluntarily in accordance with a local rehabilitation program that aims to help convicted sex offenders live productive lives.
Still, cases like Jimmy’s raise concern over the possibility of the forcible administration of such drugs.
I believe that while this method remains voluntary, it is a valid, effective procedure; however, we run into some real problems when we start talking about the possibility of forced procedures.
If we force convicts to take these drugs only to have evidence surface later that acquits them of their crimes, we are walking on eggshells. I also feel that chemical castration for flashing might be a little harsh, but of course, I don’t know the rest of Jimmy’s background.
So, in a nutshell, a voluntary chemical castration program could do a lot of good, both economically and in terms of rehabilitation, but we should probably be wary of forcing people to take some sort of anti-viagra unless we are 100 percent sure that they have committed a serious sex offense.
Nicolas Wahl is a sophomore in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.