The Case for Castration: A "Shot" towards Rehabilitation of Sexual Offenders

By Chism, Laura S. | Law and Psychology Review, Annual 2013 | Go to article overview

The Case for Castration: A "Shot" towards Rehabilitation of Sexual Offenders


Chism, Laura S., Law and Psychology Review


ABSTRACT

Paraphiliacs are a group of sexual offenders who present a particularly difficult problem in the fields of law and psychology. Overwhelming evidence indicates that our current system of treating paraphiliac sex offenders is failing us; indefinite incarceration has proven unsuccessful, considering the high recidivism rates. This note analyzes the problem of sexual victimization of children and discusses surgical and pharmacological approaches to the treatment of paraphiliacs. Relying on the successful use of the less invasive practice of chemical castration as a curative measure for reducing recidivism rates and rehabilitating paraphiliacs in Europe and other countries, this note proposes that a regimen including both chemical castration and psychotherapy is a legitimate, viable, and constitutional alternative treatment for paraphiliac sexual offenders.

INTRODUCTION

The treatment of sexual offenders presents one of the most complex issues imaginable in the clinical applications of forensic psychology. In order to be considered responsible for unacceptable or criminal sexual behaviors, sex offenders must have the conscious intent to commit the act, a principle that is the foundation of both law and forensic psychology. (1) In order to be held accountable for an offensive act in society, an individual must have been able to have acted otherwise, and refrained from doing so. (2)

Acting otherwise, however, is especially problematic for a class of sexual offenders known as paraphiliacs, those persons suffering from disorders characterized by compulsions to commit sexually deviant behavior in order to realize a specific sexual fantasy. (3) For example, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Daniel P. Greenfield compares paraphiliacs to people that experience extreme difficulty with prolonged, continued, and successful dieting, given the basic mammalian drive for food. (4) Paraphiliac offenders struggle with the prolonged, continued, and successful resistance of deviant sexual cravings, an equally powerful and basic biological drive. (5) High rates of recidivism among paraphiliacs have demonstrated that the current sentencing regime of threatening incarceration is not a sufficient deterrent in itself. (6) The most effective and lasting treatments of sexual deviancy are those regimens that actually reduce the sexual drive and allow offenders a means to control their compulsions. (7) This note discusses the scope of the problem of sexual victimization of children, provides a brief history of recent American legislative measures regarding the castration of sexual offenders, analyzes both surgical and pharmacological approaches to castration for the successful treatment of paraphiliacs, and outlines certain policy considerations and recommendations for judicial and legislative remedies to the problem of sexual victimization.

I. SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM

The prevalence of sexual victimization of children is particularly difficult to determine, as the crime is greatly under-reported; (8) still, the statistics are staggering. Research suggests that 16% of girls and 7% of boys under the age of 13 have experienced sexual abuse. (9) It is estimated that 12.5 million American children are sexually victimized before they turn 18 years old. (10) Further, the average number of victims for one sexual offender is estimated to be around twenty children. (11) Considering the overwhelmingly high rates of sexual victimization of children in our society, efforts to deter sexual offenders and protect the community are worthy.

The lasting effects of childhood sexual victimization vary with the individual. (12) Research suggests, though, that sexually abused children begin exhibiting negative emotional effects soon after the abuse begins, manifesting symptoms of depression, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, withdrawal, low self-esteem, acting out in school or social situations, sleep disorders, and eating disorders. …

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