Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Chemical castration and sterilization: Do they really work?

This article is not for the faint hearted.

Chemical castration

Throughout history, castration has been used to punish sex offenders. Of course, the use of a knife for this form of punishment isn’t used in Democratic countries but chemical castration is. Even that kind of castration causes a shudder in the consciousness of many libertarians in civilized countries. Not only is "chemical castration" in the thoughts of legislators and judges across the country, it is also actually happening. California, Arizona and Florida for example each passed a law that mandates chemical castration as a condition of parole for repeat sex offenders and the discretionary chemical castration of paroled one-time sex offenders.

Child molesters, rapists, and other sex offenders are perceived as among the vilest members of society. It is not surprising; therefore, that the Florida Legislature revived an ancient method of turning these condemned men into temporary eunuchs.

Let me say right from the onset, chemical castration is a misnomer. The organs remain intact. The only thing that is removed is the desire to have sex. The lawmakers in Florida advocated the use of drugs, not the surgeon’s scalpel, to accomplish their objective. Further, the chemical castration is not permanent. The statute mandates court-ordered weekly injections of a sex-drive-reducing hormone to qualified repeat sex offenders upon release from prison and while they are under the authority of the parole officials or the courts.

Although this news may shock and surprise some, upon a closer examination and unraveling of the issues, chemical castration may not be such a bad idea after all and may be here to stay as part of our jurisprudence.

While medical advances have made chemical suppression of the sex drive possible as a treatment for some sex offenders, the procedure is not free from criticism by medical, psychological, and psychiatric professionals.

The Arizona Supreme Court first used the term “chemical castration” in reference to a punitive measure for sex offenders in 1982. The media referred to the court-imposed administration of medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) to sex offenders as ‘chemical castration’ hence the term stuck.

This chemical is synthetic progesterone more commonly known as the female contraceptive Depo-Provera, the brand name used by the manufacturer, the Upjohn Company. In adult males, studies have proven that the prolonged use of MPA can reduce testosterone to the level of a prepubescent boy.

In Florida, the statute holds that ‘in lieu of treatment with (MPA), the court may order the defendant to undergo physical castration upon written motion by the defendant providing the defendant’s intelligent, knowing, and voluntary consent to physical castration as an alternative penalty.’ For example, if a convicted sex offender is sentenced to twenty years in prison (and that kind of sentence is not unusual in many states of the USA) the felon may be given the opportunity to accept as an alternative to imprisonment, physical castration. A convicted sex offender in Canada many years ago, asked the court to permit doctors to physically castrate him as an alternative to a long term of imprisonment. The court refused his request. I doubt that there would be any doctors in Canada willing to undertake such a task, even if the prisoner gave his permission since their peers would consider the castration of the prisoner as a form of punishment.

Enforced sterilization

In a famous American case, (Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 536 (1942) the court struck down an Oklahoma statute that authorized the sterilization of recidivist criminals. That decision was not made in favor of the prisoner because forced sterilization on a prisoner in the United States would be just as heinous as forced sterilization by the Nazis in Germany. The Court held that the Oklahoma law permitting the sterilization of habitual criminals violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The state law invidiously discriminated against the indigent by exempting defendants who had repeatedly been found guilty of white-collar crimes.

The sterilization of women in mental hospitals in Saskatchewan occurred the 1930s, much to Canada’s shame. In 1928, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Canada, enacted the Sexual Sterilization Act. The Act, drafted to protect the gene pool, allowed for sterilization of mentally disabled persons in order to prevent the transmission of undesirable traits to offspring. At that time, eugenicists argued that mental illness, mental retardation, epilepsy, alcoholism, pauperism, certain criminal behaviors, and social defects, such as prostitution and sexual perversion, were genetically determined and inherited. Further, it was widely believed that persons with these disorders had a higher reproduction rate than the normal population. As a result, it was feared the gene pool in the general population was weakening.

During the time the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act was in effect, 4,725 cases were proposed for sterilization in the Province of Alberta, of which over 2,800 received approval. Examination of sterilization records demonstrates that legislation did not apply equally to all members of society. Specifically, the Act was disproportionately applied to those in socially vulnerable positions, including: females, children, unemployed persons, domestics, rural citizens, unmarried, institutionalized persons, Roman and Greek Catholics, persons of Ukrainian, Native and M├ętis ethnicity.

In 1995, Ms. Leilani Muir sued Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Alberta for stigmatization as a moron, wrongful confinement, and sterilization. At the age of 10, Ms. Muir, an unwanted and abused child, was admitted to the Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives (PTS) in Red Deer, Alberta. She was confined to the facility until 1965, when she left against medical direction. Years later, during struggles with infertility, failed marriages and depression, Ms. Muir later learned that she had been sterilized during an appendectomy while detained at the PTS. Further, IQ testing would later reveal that Ms. Muir did not suffer from mental deficiency.

The Hon. Madame Justice J.B. Veit, presiding over the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton, ruled in favour of the plaintiff and awarded Ms. Muir $740,780 CAD and an additional sum of $230,000 CAD for legal costs. This precedent setting case opened the doors for other individuals seeking reparation for suffering under the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act.

In Florida, the defendant does, however, have a choice: he may choose surgical castration in lieu of chemical castration but it is unlikely that many defendants will choose this option unless they are being sentenced to prison for a great many years as an alternative.

The issue facing society is whether mandatory chemical castration is a medically acceptable and constitutionally permissible alternative to incarceration for sex offenders. If applied as an alternative to imprisonment, would it reduce the number of incarcerated prisoners? Considering that it costs the taxpayers in Canada at least $50,000 a year to incarcerate each prisoner, this alternative would weigh heavily on the minds of the average taxpayer.

In 1995, as many as 97,460 forcible rapes were reported to the police nationwide in the United States, representing the lowest number of reported rapes since 1989. The arrest rate for all sexual offenses (including forcible rape but excluding prostitution) dropped 16% between 1993 and 1998. In 1998, 82,653 arrests were logged for all sexual offenses, compared to 97,955 arrests in 1993. Let’s say for argument sake that 75,000 persons in the USA were convicted of rape in any given year and the cost of incarcerating each of them was $50,000. That would cost 37.5 million dollars for the first year and 75 million for the second year with the additional 75,000 convictions and 112.5 million for the third year with another 75,000 convictions. If you extrapolate into the many years that would follow, you are looking at billions of dollars a year it would cost to incarcerate that many sex offenders. Obviously, there has to be an alternative to consider because to imprison that many offenders over a period of time would cost more to imprison these felons than it would cost the Americans to conduct a full-scale war.

Up to recently in Canada, some sex offenders who were child molesters or whose sex crimes did not include assault causing bodily harm, were given conditional sentences; that is their homes were their prisons. (except when going to work, grocery shopping, going to church or to a doctor or dentist) But unless they are given some form of treatment for their problems relating to their uncontrolled sex drives, there is a chance that they will re-offend again. For example, in the United States, sex offenders are about four times more likely than non-sex offenders to be arrested for another sex crime after their discharge from prison –– 5.3 percent of sex offenders versus 1.3 percent of non-sex offenders. These figures would probably apply to those who are under house arrest also.

Chemical castration would appear to be the solution to this problem; however it is not a permanent solution. Once the chemical treatment stops, there is nothing to prevent the offender from re-offending again since committing more sex crimes is a direct result of a compulsion that many of these sex offenders have no control over.
If the courts order chemical castration to be permanent, that is, to be applied until the offender is at least 70 years of age (when the sex drive is greatly reduced) the offender would be denied the opportunity to procreate and that could have a disastrous effect on his married life. Further, it’s unlikely that such a court order would survive a constitutional challenge.

I must confess that thus far, I cannot find a satisfactory solution to this problem. Chemical castration is temporary, permanent chemical castration is not possible and physical castration is too obscene to even consider. There may however be a solution to this problem.

Cigarette smokers put a patch on their arms or chew a special kind of chewing gum that takes away the desire to smoke cigarettes. Alcoholics can take a certain pill that will induce vomiting when they ingest alcohol.

It is conceivable that some day in the future, sex addicts will be able to place a patch on their arms or on their upper thighs that will put synthetic progesterone into their system that will reduce their sexual cravings. And those who wish to have it on occasion; can remove the patch for a day or so and their desire to have sex will return. For those felons on probation or parole who are under a court order to have the synthetic progesterone continuously injected into their bodies will have to keep the patch on for the week until they have it removed by their probation or parole officer for the next patch. If for example, the patch turns a certain colour after being illegally removed, the authorities will know and they can then deal with the felon as having breached his probation or parole.

Taking the pill to induce vomiting when ingesting alcohol is not enough to stop the cravings. That is why Alcoholics Anonymous is so effective. It seems to me that the same applies for sex addicts. They too need similar treatment. With the combination of the ingestion of synthetic progesterone into their bodies and psychiatric counseling in their minds, this may be the solution needed to reduce the number of sex offenders walking our streets and living in our homes.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were in increasing number of biologists and other scientists who, together with social workers, philanthropists, and politicians, were concerned that the population of the United States was moving away from the Anglo-Saxon superiority to a lower level because of the increased immigration from southern and eastern Europe.

Interest in eugenic sterilization in the United States began in the late 19th century because of concerns about criminals, the insane, and feebleminded persons. This concern quickly expanded to include alcoholics, paupers, orphans, derelicts, delinquents, prostitutes, and those unable to support themselves. At first, reformers were optimistic about helping such individuals. However, by the end of the century more reformers came to believe that these conditions resulted from deficient heredity and thus could not be ameliorated or eliminated by environmental procedures. An important event preceding the rise of sterilization programs was the 1875 publication of a study of the Jukes, a New York family with a propensity for almshouses, taverns, brothels, and jail

Until 1921 the United States had maintained an open-door immigration tradition for people of most nationalities. At the close of World War I, there had been an initial attempt to pass an immigration-restriction law based largely on economic positions. A temporary measure was passed in 1921 to combat unemployment resulting from the slowdown of the economy and the return of soldiers from the front. Between 1921 and 1924, however, eugenicists, in conjunction with the Immigration Restriction League, worked for the passage of a more comprehensive and permanent law.

Laughlin played an important role because of his appointment, in April 1920, as the expert eugenics agent of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization. During the debates over immigration restriction, he appeared before the committee on several occasions, always presenting the view that the biologically inferior new immigrants were threatening to wipe out the established Anglo- Saxon population. Laughlin's evidence for such a statement was unjustified by the facts which he brought forth. He included references to the persistence of degeneracy in immigrant families, to their low scores on IQ tests, and to claims that conditions such as shiftlessness, alcoholism, and insubordination were genetic traits appearing far more frequently in the new foreign-born immigrants. Herbert Spencer Jennings of Johns Hopkins was finally called to testify by the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization.

However, Jennings, who was a strong opponent of the eugenics movement, was given only 5 minutes to speak on the final day of the hearings. If given more time, Jennings and other scientists cold have discredited some of the earlier testimony and explained that IQ tests were given in English to immigrants who, in many cases, could not speak or read the language. There were significant differences among members of the House as to how to regulate immigration. After much debate, it was agreed to base immigration on the 1890 census. Under this interpretation, immigration of the so-called Nordic or Anglo-Saxon stock namely, people from northwestern Europe and Great Britain-was greatly favored over immigration of those from southern and eastern Europe, particularly Jewish immigrants. Laughlin felt that immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, especially Jews, were so radically different from and genetically inferior to the current American population that any racial mixture would be deleterious.

The passing of the Johnson Restrictive Immigration Act of 1924 was perhaps the greatest triumph for them American eugenics movement, particularly for Laughlin, Davenport, and the ERO. In retrospect the passage of the Johnson Restrictive Immigration Act can be seen as the misuse of pseudoscientific and incorrect genetic information in order to justify prejudicial viewpoints.

During the 1890s, campaigns for legislation which prescribed the sterilization of the "unfit" were begun.

In 1897 a bill calling for the castration of both the feebleminded and certain criminals was introduced and discussed in the Michigan state legislature, where it was ultimately defeated. Some institutions proceeded to sterilize without legal authorization. For example, at the Kansas State Institution for Feeble
Minded children, Dr. F. Hoyt Pilcher castrated 44 boys and 14 girls before strong public disapproval forced him to stop. I

n 1907, Indiana became the first state to pass an involuntary-sterilization measure based on eugenic principles. This law required the sterilization of inmates of state institutions who were insane, idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded, convicted rapists, or habitual criminals. This procedure had to be recommended by a board of experts which was determined by each state. By 1931, 30 states had passed involuntary sterilization measures. Some of these laws applied to, a very wide range of "defectives," including "sexual perverts, drug fiends, drunkards, epileptics, and diseased degenerate persons."

During the 1 960s, the practice of sterilizing retarded persons in state institutions virtually ceased, but the laws remained. In 1961, there were still eugenic-sterilization laws in 28 states. There has been a trend tomrepeal the laws, and, as of 1987, eugenic sterilization of institutionalized retarded persons was permissible in 19 states; but the laws are now rarely invoked. A few states have even enacted laws that expressly forbid sterilization of persons in state institutions.

During the past 10 years, the discussion of sterilizing the mentally retarded is no longer in a genetic context. The main issue is how to protect the incompetent person -and the right of that person to be sterilized if he or she is being sexually abused. The courts must be convinced that the operation will benefit the patient.

A review of the history of eugenic sterilizations in the United States makes it evident that many abuses have occurred since thousands of persons who were not mentally retarded were forcibly sterilized. Many individuals were also involuntarily sterilized mainly because of their race (black) or because of poverty and inability to pay for the care of themselves and their children.


With respect to chemical castrations (which really aren’t castrations but rather they are sex inhibitors.) This technique only works when the subject continues the treatment. If he stops using the drug then the sexual drive will return. It is for this reason that chemical castration is not the kind of words that should be used when the intent is to merely inhibit the sex drive of the subject and nothing more.

With respect to sterilizing people, I have some mixed emotions about this practice. I can appreciate the need to sterilize a woman who has a successive number of births of badly deformed children or has children who are continuously born mentally defective. But to sterilize a woman simply because she is bad is absolutely morally wrong.

Where I see a real problem is when a woman who shouldn’t have children refuses to be sterilized. Even though her children are born disabled, does society have a right to sterilize her against her wishes? I can think of one such kind of woman who should be sterilized against her own wishes. I am thinking of a woman who kills her own children. She definitely should be sterilized whether she wants to be or not to be sterilized.

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