Castrating repeat sex offenders? WE SAY For the good of society, the most disturbed should be able to seek voluntary castration. IDS | March 22, 2009

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed legislation last year requiring courts to order chemical castration for certain sex offenders convicted a second time. Texas, Florida and California allow or mandate chemical castration in certain circumstances.

In the Czech Republic, attention is being focused on the procedure after Antonin Novak, 43, was sentenced to life in prison after raping and killing Jakub Simanek, a 9-year-old boy. Novak had already served more than four years in prison for previous sexual offenses. He had been released and been ordered outpatient treatment, which he failed to attend.

Could castration have saved Jakub?

A Danish study from the 1960s found that the rate of repeat offenses dropped from 80 to 2.3 percent among 900 surgically castrated sex offenders.

The director of the Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice in Prague, Dr. Martin Holly, reported that, of the 94 sex offenders to undergo surgical castration in the Czech Republic over the past decade, not one of them has committed further offenses.

Moreover, many of the sex offenders feel that their castration has had a positive impact on their own lives. Twenty years after Pavel, a source from a New York Times article who refused to give his last name for fear of being harassed, stabbed his 12-year-old neighbor to death while experiencing sexual urges he seems to have found relief.

“I can finally live knowing that I am no harm to anybody,” he told a New York Times reporter. During Pavel’s last year in prison he underwent surgical castration, which he described in the article as “draining the gasoline from a car hard-wired to crash.”

The procedure is drawing criticism, however, from many who feel it violates human rights. While Poland is expected to become the first European Union state to give judges the right to impose chemical castration on at least some convicted pedophiles, the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee deemed surgical castration “invasive, irreversible and mutilating” and asked the Czech government to ban it.

Others point out that even when castration, chemical or otherwise, is offered as a voluntary procedure, many convicts feel pressured into it to get parole or escape life sentences.

The American Civil Liberties Union has asserted that mandatory chemical castration, such as the law dictates in California and Florida for repeat offenders, violates a convict’s constitutional rights. It cites the implied right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment, the ban of cruel and unusual punishment provided by the Eighth Amendment and the rights of due process and equal protection.

Forcing convicts to undergo medical procedures that cause them to forfeit fertility is extreme. However, offering the option of castration in contrast to a lifetime sentence could not only help protect society from sex offenders but perhaps also provide the offenders their best chance at rehabilitation and a normal life.

While they might feel pressured into the choice when the only other option is life in prison, it is fair to ask someone responsible for, say, the horrific ruin of a child’s life, to make a difficult decision.

Far from being inhumane, voluntary castration offers a road to recovery for some of the most mentally disturbed members of society.

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