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Czech Surgical Castration for Sex Offenders - Good Idea?
March 14, 2009 12:49 PM   Subscribe

The Czech Republic offers surgical castration as a "voluntary" option to sex offenders, whose rate of recidivism in some studies then drops precipitously. Officials at the Council of Europe are outraged, calling the punishment "invasive, irreversible and mutilating." Atul Gawande noted 10 years ago that, despite his reservations, castration works - at least against a subclass of offenders: the pedophiles and sadists.
posted by shivohum (86 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
This thread feels like it could trainwreck really easily, but it's such an intriguing concept...

I don't buy the concept that choosing castration under "duress" of facing a lifetime in jail has anything to do with taking away their choices and freedoms and whatnot, and I don't think it's entirely fair to place the word voluntary between quotes. A lifetime jail shouldn't be considered a coercive threat that takes away your ability to make a rational choice, because in essence it's redress and remedy for a crime that's already been committed. A choice for how to discipline the offender for the crime committed is different from going up to people with sexual fetishes we disagree with and saying "castrate yourself or go to jail for life".

Because it does still involve a fairly invasive, permanent alteration to your body, it makes sense that it would be at the prisoner's choice, rather than mandatory (as they seem to be discussing). But I guess I harbour the hope that some people really just want to get better and be a contributing member to society, too, and might pick this choice because it seems to actually help reduce recidivism.
posted by Phire at 12:58 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I haven't finished reading yet, but I wonder if they keep your gonads in deep freeze in case new evidence finds you innocent of the charges against you.

I also think that considering what happens to child sex offenders in prison, losing your testes surgically might not seem too bad an option.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:01 PM on March 14, 2009


I'm for it.

...Optimus Chyme?
posted by Xezlec at 1:06 PM on March 14, 2009


I'm surprised that sadists are a subclass of offenders who are 'helped' by this, since rape is most often a violence-motivated act more than a sex-motivated one, unless it's just aggression suppressed by lack of testosterone. Still, it's all very very creepy.
posted by wendell at 1:07 PM on March 14, 2009


since rape is most often a violence-motivated act more than a sex-motivated one

Oft-repeated false distinction (orf'd!).
posted by grobstein at 1:14 PM on March 14, 2009 [9 favorites]


I bet pickpocket recidivism goes way down when you cut off their fingers, and I would venture to guess that a lot of obscene phone callers go out of business after you remove their tongues. Other crimes might require the sort of sneaking and scheming that only a good blinding and lobotomy can cure.

Keep looking. There has to be a humane and effective solution that doesn't require lopping off parts of the criminal.
posted by pracowity at 1:14 PM on March 14, 2009 [9 favorites]


"Can't I just choose declawing, your honour?"
posted by Krrrlson at 1:17 PM on March 14, 2009


There has to be a humane and effective solution that doesn't require lopping off parts of the criminal.

But what if there isn't? And what if they're happier with their decision to be castrated than they would be otherwise? I don't think they should be denied that option.
posted by marble at 1:20 PM on March 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


So what if you let them go and then find out they're one that it doesn't change? And how do you reliably classify someone as a "sadist" rather than a garden variety rapist?
posted by dilettante at 1:25 PM on March 14, 2009


Keep looking. There has to be a humane and effective solution that doesn't require lopping off parts of the criminal.

I've got one, let's put all the rapists in your home and you can assume responsibility for them. Other than the issue of false convictions, why should society be beholden to rapists? As for the silly analogy regarding fingers and tongues, I have it on good authority that smoking marijuana leads directly and irreversibly to cocaine and heroin; I trust you agree.
posted by Krrrlson at 1:26 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess I harbour the hope that some people really just want to get better and be a contributing member to society, too, and might pick this choice because it seems to actually help reduce recidivism.

My guess is the percentage of sex offenders (who lack extreme masochistic tendencies) who would agree to castration without a significant reduction in their prison sentence is somewhere in the neighborhood of zero.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:26 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Chemical castration has many of the advantages of surgical castration, while still being reversible. The side-effects can be pretty nasty, but as long as it remains a voluntary option for violent sexual offenders, i see it as the lesser of two evils. Making it mandatory though makes me very uncomfortable, as either forced surgery or chemical treatment infringes on their human rights in a serious way.

Neither option is foolproof, especially for those who commit offences for psychological reasons, but prison isn't foolproof either. The end goal is punishment for a serious crime, and rehabilitation so they don't do it again. If chemical or surgical castration achieves this rehabilitation, and the prisoner is willing to do this to help him control his uncontrollable urges, is it such a bad idea?
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:26 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


kittens for breakfast: "I guess I harbour the hope that some people really just want to get better and be a contributing member to society, too, and might pick this choice because it seems to actually help reduce recidivism.

My guess is the percentage of sex offenders (who lack extreme masochistic tendencies) who would agree to castration without a significant reduction in their prison sentence is somewhere in the neighborhood of zero.
"

At the same time, the purpose of the carceral system is to rehabilitate people so that they may be fit for society again. If something else of shorter duration accomplishes the same task, what is wrong with the reduced prison sentence?
posted by Phire at 1:28 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


And what if they're happier with their decision to be castrated than they would be otherwise?

But are you going to offer other people the same sort of option for other crimes? If a three-strikes law is going to send a pickpocket away for the rest of his life, are you going to offer him the chance to stay out of prison but lose his hands?
posted by pracowity at 1:29 PM on March 14, 2009


Atul Gawande noted 10 years ago that, despite his reservations, castration works

In fact Gawande is best known for coining the slogan, Castration : Love It or Lose It, Ya Better Not Abuse It
posted by mannequito at 1:34 PM on March 14, 2009


There has to be a humane and effective solution that doesn't require lopping off parts of the criminal.

No, as a matter of fact, there doesn't. Sure, it would be nice if there were, but the universe hasn't promised and doesn't owe you a magical way of Making People Better. It doesn't owe you a pony either, though as long as you're wishing for impossible things it doesn't hurt to ask.

Somehow I think there's a kind of inherent justice in the "You rape a little girl, we cut your balls off" proposition being presented here. Anyone who disagrees is going to have to come up with a theory of criminal justice which cannot involve more than the barest rudiment of retributionary justice. Frankly, as that's the only aspect of criminal justice that I'm particularly concerned with, I'm all for it.

On a strictly legal note, as far as I can tell the constitutionality of the chemical castration has been completely untested in federal court, though if someone can show me a citation I'd be happy to take a look at it. I'm pretty sure the state statutes mentioned in the Slate article are still good law.
posted by valkyryn at 1:36 PM on March 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


At the same time, the purpose of the carceral system is to rehabilitate people so that they may be fit for society again.

God, I wish that were the majority opinion. Sadly, though...
posted by Xezlec at 1:37 PM on March 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Losing your hands is a huge impact on many aspects of your life. Losing your testes means you lose the ability to have children. They're not in the same league. How many violent repeat sexual offenders, especially those who commit offences against children, are going to go on to have a normal family life with 2.4 kids, where social services won't step in and stop him being part of their life anyway?

Forced surgical castration though, I'd definitely be against, not least because of the false conviction aspect. Chopping someone's balls off against his will is different again to giving him that choice to majorly reduce the chance of recidivism.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:40 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


But are you going to offer other people the same sort of option for other crimes?

Slippery Slope is a logical fallacy. Cutting off gonads for serious sex crimes is not the same as cutting off hands for petty theft - one does not lead to the other.

There has to be a humane and effective solution that doesn't require lopping off parts of the criminal.

It's voluntary, not "required".
posted by stbalbach at 1:42 PM on March 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


I bet pickpocket recidivism goes way down when you cut off their fingers

I'm inclined to believe that the people who commit those crimes are not driven by some deep-seated urge to do specifically that, but rather are just trying to obtain money. Give them another lifestyle, and it goes away. A sadist, however, is a sadist because a part of their brain turns on and fills them with a kind of bloodlust under certain circumstances. It's hard to imagine a lifestyle change drastic enough to remove all the stimuli that provoke that response, and it's my guess that even if it did exist, such a permanent life change could be just as bad as a gonadectomy, despite being less physical in nature.
posted by Xezlec at 1:43 PM on March 14, 2009


Krrrlson: As for the silly analogy regarding fingers and tongues, I have it on good authority that smoking marijuana leads directly and irreversibly to cocaine and heroin; I trust you agree.

If I read you correctly you're saying that pracowity's argument against castration by analogy to chopping fingers off pickpockets etc. is an example of a slippery-slope argument. I don't think that's it at all, I understood him to mean that there's no difference between castrating a convicted rapist and cutting digits off a pickpocket except that rape is a much more serious crime. By that logic the only way to keep a murderer from killing again is to either sequester him away from society forever (e.g. in an isolation cell, on an island or keeping him in a coma) or by killing him. I don't see how you can defend the surgical castration of sex offenders without defending these other practices without saying something along the lines of "it's okay to castrate rapists and child molesters because their crimes are more disgusting than those of other people." While I agree that rape and child molestation is hideous and disgusting I don't like the idea of punishment by mutilation, if only because no justice system is infallible.

Being imprisoned unjustly is bad enough but at least the state hadn't taken away any of your body parts.
posted by Kattullus at 1:43 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


There has to be a humane and effective solution that doesn't require lopping off parts of the criminal.

But what if there isn't? And what if they're happier with their decision to be castrated than they would be otherwise? I don't think they should be denied that option.
Well, you're already convinced there isn't another solution, so why bother looking? Maybe I'm reading this thread wrong, but as far as I can tell, everyone here is operating under the assumption that there's not another treatment for this that works, and I feel like although we love doing it, laymen are not the people to be drawing that conclusion.

I like the idea of offenders having the option, and from the way the article describes it, it's being administered in a just manner, but I think in the overall debate, we should be clear about where our assumptions are coming from.
posted by !Jim at 1:44 PM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


At the same time, the purpose of the carceral system is to rehabilitate people so that they may be fit for society again. If something else of shorter duration accomplishes the same task, what is wrong with the reduced prison sentence?

Probably nothing -- although this introduces the question of what we end up with when we start placing responsibility for criminal actions on hormones gone amok -- but that's not where I was going with this: My thought is just that it's a little unlikely that someone who lacks a basic desire to harm himself will volunteer for castration without (God help me) some kind of dangling carrot in play. And that may only be fair, on one level, but it makes it difficult to argue that there's no coercion involved when someone makes that choice.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:44 PM on March 14, 2009


At the same time, the purpose of the carceral system is to rehabilitate people so that they may be fit for society again.

What if society came to agreement that in some cases, the purpose of incarceration was to remove the offender from society altogether? To prevent the offender from ever hurting anyone ever again? Life (and I do mean life) in prison, with parole possible if exonerating evidence is uncovered.

Seems like the best of all possible situations. No conundrums about castration, capital punishment or recidivism rates.

Raped a kid? Here's your cell. Make yourself at home. Because you are.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:53 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]



There has to be a humane and effective solution that doesn't require lopping off parts of the criminal.

Maybe this is humane in some instances. I have read that some pedophiles have a painful awareness that what they are doing is wrong, but still have the drive to do it. It seems that it might be a great relief to some pedophiles to not be driven by that need anymore. That sounds like it would be humane for the perpetrator and any possible future victims.

(as a voluntary and educated option, of course)
posted by Vaike at 1:55 PM on March 14, 2009


On the other hand, I don't like the idea of someone getting out early for a crime as hideous as child molestation or rape by undergoing surgical castration. Especially because there's evidence it doesn't work, as noted in the New York Times article: "Ales Butala, a Slovenian human rights lawyer who led the Council of Europe’s delegation to the Czech Republic [...] challenged its effectiveness, saying that the council’s committee had discovered three cases of castrated Czech sex offenders who had gone on to commit violent crimes, including pedophilia and attempted murder."

Castration may feel viscerally right as punishment but if it doesn't work then it has no point other than to sate revenge impulses.
posted by Kattullus at 1:56 PM on March 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


I bet pickpocket recidivism goes way down when you cut off their fingers, and I would venture to guess that a lot of obscene phone callers go out of business after you remove their tongues.

These crimes inflict many times lesser degrees of suffering on the victims. And these body parts are much more necessary for essential daily functioning. (occupational, social, etc)

Pedophiles almost always re-offend, and so the tough decision is to either lock them up for life (which is disproportionate to the crime), to release them and accept there will be more victims, or to strike at the biological foundation of the behavior. It isn't the ideal solution, but it is the optimal solution. You aren't going to train a pedophile to have normal sexual desire, anymore than you are going to train a homosexual to be heterosexual or a heterosexual to be homosexual; and those pedophilic desires are a ticking time bomb. Few people have the self-restraint to live as celibates. Pedophiles are otherwise non-violent, non-criminal people, and don't deserve to be treated as criminals, but as mentally ill. Castration at least more resembles a medical solution, than sending them to prison where they are often considered fair game for abuse by the more aggressive criminals.

(sexual sadists, who are actually sexually aroused by violence against women, are another dangerous class of offender, who biological intervention can really make a difference with)

My guess is the percentage of sex offenders (who lack extreme masochistic tendencies) who would agree to castration without a significant reduction in their prison sentence is somewhere in the neighborhood of zero.

Actually, a lot of pedophiles consider their sexual desires a burden. Many voluntarily choose this option, and most report satisfaction with it, considering it a sort of psychological salvation. It is not very pleasant for them to have sexual desires that are inherently criminal, exploitative and abusive.
posted by dgaicun at 1:56 PM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Especially because there's evidence it doesn't work, as noted in the New York Times article: "Ales Butala, a Slovenian human rights lawyer who led the Council of Europe’s delegation to the Czech Republic [...] challenged its effectiveness, saying that the council’s committee had discovered three cases of castrated Czech sex offenders who had gone on to commit violent crimes, including pedophilia and attempted murder."

This is horrible science reporting; cherry-picking counter-examples. Recidivism is 5-20x lower in castrated offenders.
posted by dgaicun at 1:59 PM on March 14, 2009


Being imprisoned unjustly is bad enough but at least the state hadn't taken away any of your body parts.

If I was facing a choice between 30 years in prison and surgical castration, I'd seriously consider castration. What good is having a complete body when you're in prison? After castration, the rest of my life is much more intact than it would be while serving a life sentence.
posted by fatbird at 2:01 PM on March 14, 2009


...Optimus Chyme?
posted by Xezlec at 1:06 PM on March 14


As bizarre as the choice is - prison or testes - it's still a choice, so I don't have any outraged comments to offer, sadly. Also note that sexual aggression and social aggression are very different things, so it's not a retread of the last thread.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:09 PM on March 14, 2009


I haven't finished reading yet, but I wonder if they keep your gonads in deep freeze in case new evidence finds you innocent of the charges against you.

Case in point (from last Sunday's '60 Minutes). The wrongful conviction for rape of Ronald Cotton.
posted by ericb at 2:16 PM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't think trying to solve a mental problem with a physical solution is a good idea in this case.
posted by pwally at 2:23 PM on March 14, 2009


Pedophiles almost always re-offend

Do you have a cite for this? What factors affect it? Do mandatory registration programs lower the recidivism rate? What about mandatory treatment? What kinds of treatments are most or least effective?
posted by !Jim at 2:25 PM on March 14, 2009


since rape is most often a violence-motivated act more than a sex-motivated one

This gets repeated a lot, often by the more annoying breed of feminists, but I just fail to see the truth in that.

A while back I read an article in a Finnish medical journal written by the country's top expert on the subject, the chief of medical staff of the Psychiatric Prisoner Hospital, noted psychiatrist Hannu Lauerma. He detailed research concerning the (arguably) voluntary chemical castration of repeat violent sex offenders. The results were clear: chemical castration reduced repeat offences dramatically. Violent sex offenders who did not receive the chemicals were significantly more prone to raping again.

If rape was violence-motivated, this result wouldn't make sense. AFAIK, castration, chemical or otherwise, does not quell violent tendencies as such (although the drop in testosterone levels might "take the edge off").

The motivation for violence in general may be just about anything, but for sexual violence the obvious motivation is simply sex – lust taking a violent turn. I don't know why it's politically incorrect to just say the obvious truth out loud.

Not having read the article yet, on preview it seems silly to resort to surgical castration when the chemical alternative is available. I guess it's more expensive in the long run but it's a bit more civilized if you ask me.
posted by lifeless at 2:29 PM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's only voluntary to early adopters. If enough pedophiles opt for it, future sentences will naturally become longer as prison resources free up until it is life in prison or castration. You may argue that life in prison and/or castration is what criminals deserve, but alternatively if you believe in the hope of human redemption this might be a bad trend.

Pedophiles almost always re-offend

Cite? If I recall the numbers run from 18-45%, oddly enough pedophiles that victimize males reoffend at a much higher rate than those who victimize females. From a practical standpoint we should incarcerate those who victimize males longer, but if you believe in the elusive concept of justice, that seems arbitrary.

I'm not convinced that lopping off body parts is in any way shape or form more cruel or arbitrary than a prolonged period of incarceration. Just because something is novel and gory does not make it more cruel. I suspect that I could survive castration a lot easier than even a short prison stint. I'm always aghast at the cruelty of the execution techniques we use now as well. Bloodless and clinical in place of speed and mercy. I'd take a firing squad, guillotine or any day over the electric chair.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:31 PM on March 14, 2009


or sexual violence the obvious motivation is simply sex – lust taking a violent turn. I don't know why it's politically incorrect to just say the obvious truth out loud.

Well it's a continuum whose extreme end has violence alone (stabbing, etc...) satiating the sexual desires of the perpetrator. The origin is sexual, but the expression may be purely violent. Even in the cases of rape (ostensibly a mix of sexual and violent urges), the victim of the rape may be a different gender or type than the acknowledged sexual orientation of the perpetrator. If it were purely sex, I'd think we'd probably see less rape of the elderly, handicapped, down's syndrome victims, coma patients etc... and more rape of the victims the perpetrators are most attracted to physically rather than attracted to because of the ability to dominate and control.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:40 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you get rid of all the sadists, then what will the masochists do? Suffer?

oh wait.....
posted by Afroblanco at 2:50 PM on March 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


If it were purely sex, I'd think we'd probably see less rape of the elderly, handicapped, down's syndrome victims, coma patients etc... and more rape of the victims the perpetrators are most attracted to physically rather than attracted to because of the ability to dominate and control.

I'll give you that. You might also see that as picking targets who put up less resistance. I'll just be crass here: a fuckable hole is a fuckable hole, no matter who it belongs to. Given sufficient sexual pressure, it matters little at whom it's released, if you're thus inclined.

Prison rape is an interesting artifact of that, going against previous sexual orientation, and rather obviously having a power/control element. But there are myriad ways of asserting dominance, so I'll hold the viewpoint that picking a sexual method instead of a non-sexual method is always to some degree about fulfilling sexual needs.
posted by lifeless at 2:53 PM on March 14, 2009


Cite? If I recall the numbers run from 18-45%, oddly enough pedophiles that victimize males reoffend at a much higher rate than those who victimize females. From a practical standpoint we should incarcerate those who victimize males longer, but if you believe in the elusive concept of justice, that seems arbitrary.
I'm not sure I follow the logic that we should incarcerate those offenders longer. Are you trying to say that incarcerating those offenders longer will reduce their recidivism rates further? From my perspective, what this tells us is there's something else at work with those offenders that we don't understand well enough to treat effectively.

I also recall that based on some studies I've read, it's pretty difficult to make blanket statements about sex offender recidivism, because there are so many forces at work. Not only that, but treatment and punishment strategies vary so widely that it's difficult to compare one to another. A study I read looked at a 3 month in-patient treatment facility that produced only a marginal reduction in recidivism rates. From this, it would be easy to draw the conclusion that treatment simple doesn't work, but the real problem is that that treatment strategy is deeply flawed. As soon as the offenders got out, they were free to return to their previous way of thinking, as they hadn't incorporated the treatment into their everyday life over a long enough period to actually change.
posted by The Eponymous Pseudonymous Rex at 2:55 PM on March 14, 2009


>> Pedophiles almost always re-offend

> Cite? If I recall the numbers run from 18-45%,


I searched around a bit for numbers, but found nothing for pedophiles exclusively. One fact noted in the Gawande piece may make it clear why it's difficult to come up with a reliable figure: a pedophile requesting castration in Texas admitted to molesting children 240 times. He was convicted once.
posted by palliser at 3:10 PM on March 14, 2009


Castration is very, very commonly done in our society: to dogs and cats. It works, very well, to constrain undesirable male dog and cat behavior. We love, genuinely love, our dogs and cats, and wouldn't do something to them that seriously compromised their quality of life - but we have them neutered without hesitation and tell our friends and neighbors how much nicer and more gentle and less inclined to roam and not to hump people's legs he is. So there's a very well-tested animal model. Any vet would be able to give you a very good overview of what will likely happen to you, including unpleasant possible side effects like weight gain and lassitude, if you have your testicles removed.

To summarize the pro- arguments: first there is an issue of comparison to prison. The social function of prison is not to provide vengeance porn for knuckledragging Republican voters who think of their own lives as suffering and desperately want to watch others suffer more; it is most definitely not to provide a cage in which the prisoners may be raped and beaten by each other (that would be gross negligence by the authority having failed to supervise and control its wards), it is to rehabilitate (ie, to render socially functional) the prisoners. Prison is, in itself, one of the most serious breaches of human rights that it is possible to perform upon a person. Prison, as practiced in the USA at least, is arguably worse than castration, particularly given the extreme lengths of sentences and well-known sadistic malpractice of prison authorities in treatment of sex offenders.

Secondly, castration itself is somewhat unique in its effect. It's not so much removal of capacity for an action, it's removal of a gland that "causes" a "desire" to perform that action. (Biochemistry and volitional philosophy are at odds here - like the position and velocity of an particle, you can measure and work with either, but you can't have both at once.) It's nothing at all like removal of a hand, which is the instrument of much more of the self's volitional actions, or of an eye, which is almost entirely an inward informational organ, with some outward communication functions. We don't communicate with our testicles, we don't manipulate anything with them, we don't even "use" them; largely, they "use" us. It's a use we're more than happy to go along with, if indeed we have that much volitional choice about it all.

Thirdly, we're discussing a voluntary option. What you have the right to do to yourself, or if unable, to request be done to you, is a perennial problem - drug use, abortion rights and euthanasia rights, all very contentious issues themselves, are subsets of the same issue. As with all of these questions, one's own personal desire not to be castrated (or get high on drugs, or have a fetus removed, or even be killed) has little relevance to the desires of others in the matter. Arguments based on no more than "I wouldn't want to do that" are almost meaningless.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:14 PM on March 14, 2009 [15 favorites]


Oft-repeated false distinction (orf'd!).

Are you saying that the distinction between sex and violence is false?

Also, Wayne DuMond managed to rape and murder someone despite having his nuts cut off.
posted by delmoi at 3:35 PM on March 14, 2009


Pedophiles almost always re-offend

...and...

Do you have a cite for this? What factors affect it? Do mandatory registration programs lower the recidivism rate? What about mandatory treatment? What kinds of treatments are most or least effective?

There is a definitional problem inherent in this analysis: people who have sex with kids are not necessarily paedophiles. True paedophiles are a relatively small subset of the former group. The former group is and always will be a mixture of people tempted by a particular situation, the intellectually disabled, the otherwise stupid etc.

In my jurisdiction, convicted sex offenders who are gaoled are required to complete a sex offender program before being eligible for release on parole. I've represented a client who, by refusing to complete the course, served a 9 year sentence rather than be released after only 7. In 8 years of working in the criminal law he would still be the only person out of hundreds I've interacted with who was an out-and-out recidivist paedophile. He's in custody at the moment, but when he is released I have no doubt he will re-offend.

So why not lock him up forever? At least one reason is that our criminal justice system is based on ideas of punishing crimes that have been committed, not ameliorating future risk. I, for one, feel very strongly that the taking of someone's liberty is only something that can be done as a response to a transgression that has been proven to a very high standard. To detail people preventatively is to say, in effect, that the state bears no burden of proof at all any more. And it's not a stretch to think that such a power could be misused by a state.
posted by tim_in_oz at 3:45 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you trying to say that incarcerating those offenders longer will reduce their recidivism rates further?

I have no cites, but have the feeling that maybe the recidivism rate would drop. At the least an extremely prolonged period of incarceration will shorten the time between when a recidivist is released and when they die of old age or other health problems. Unless there's some argument for prolonged incarceration significantly increasing the effectiveness of sexual predators or frequency of predation, there'd be less overall crime if you targeted longer sentences at those most likely to re-offend. This argument is strictly from a prison resource standpoint, and ignores any concept of fairness.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:52 PM on March 14, 2009


I'm not comfortable with this because of the abuse of other extra levels of punishment 'for the good of society' that are currently in effect for sex offenders. Something sensible like a sex offender registry that sounds like a bright way to equip citizens is also used to punish odd categories including: people who buy sex toys in the wrong state, people who ignore age of consent laws of dubious protective value, people who urinate in public, people who looked at simulated sex acts the state doesn't approve of, children who took naked pictures of themselves, and so on.

Not to mention that actual rapists who have done nothing more after serving their time have been the victims of vigilante violence and marginalized in finding a place to live by overly restrictive residential regulations.

On top of this, it’s socially acceptable to hope other people rape these individuals in prison, and an accepted inevitability of incarceration. This group of very unfortunate individuals is already under siege as far as their human rights go, and I don’t feel it’s safe to make human rights arbitrary.

And castration violates gender equality. If the male pedo gets snipped, what does the female pedo get? If it's not okay to descriminate against women based on say, pregnancy, a unique capacity of the gender except in a few exceptions, then testicles being a single gender item is also worrying. Especially in the face of reduced sentencing.

Certainly violent crime is reduced by decreasing testosterone levels. This is accepted, be it rape or assault, known to the point that we’ve been using it on slaves and domesticated animals prior to recorded history. The problem I see is if say, it’s instituted in the UK, with its existing difficulty swallowing S&M porn. Given the evidence that the category of sex offender gets used pretty liberally, already besieged segments of society will be probably told to face the shears, just like they used to try to treat poor gay men.
posted by Phalene at 3:57 PM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]



And castration violates gender equality. If the male pedo gets snipped, what does the female pedo get?


From the Gawande piece linked in the FPP:

"Of more than 700 Danish sex offenders castrated after multiple convictions, relapse rates dropped from between 17 percent and 50 percent to just 2 percent. A Norwegian study showed the same for selected male and female sex offenders (the women had their ovaries removed)."
posted by palliser at 4:09 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


But there are myriad ways of asserting dominance, so I'll hold the viewpoint that picking a sexual method instead of a non-sexual method is always to some degree about fulfilling sexual needs.

Well sometimes the perpetrator is fulfilling their sexual desires even with a non-sexual method (stabbing, cannibalism, trophy taking, sadism), and it's hard to pry apart how much of the motivation for a sexual method is about maximizing emotional pain and humiliation. If the perpetrator receives sexual gratification from torture and murder without using their penis or penetrating the victim, should we also refer to that as a sex motivated act? It's true, but a little weird.

But maybe we should instead talk about the motivation behind victim's advocates and abnormal psychologists referring to rape as a violent rather than sexual act. On the one hand, we have a desire not to bring the overloaded semantics of sex, with implications of consent and analysis of the possible flirtatious or provocative actions of the victim into the mix, while downplaying the sadism and dehumanization of the perpetrator. I'm sure that shrinks would have some reasons for focusing more on the dehumanizing and violent nature of the act than on the sexual elements, but as I'm not a shrink I'll confine myself to the speculation that they have a very precise and not semantically overloaded jargon for classifying these things.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:13 PM on March 14, 2009


Cite? If I recall the numbers run from 18-45%

You are correct, this is for criminal recidivism. I recalled from reading that researchers believe far more are "getting away with it", but we can certainly take those numbers as a practical comparison point. I said: "Recidivism is 5-20x lower in castrated offenders." From Slate article: "Of more than 700 Danish sex offenders castrated after multiple convictions, relapse rates dropped from between 17 percent and 50 percent to just 2 percent."

And castration violates gender equality. If the male pedo gets snipped, what does the female pedo get?

Very next sentence from article: "A Norwegian study showed the same for selected male and female sex offenders (the women had their ovaries removed)." Though the gender inequality wouldn't bother me as such. Women just aren't that common as pedophiles, or especially serial pedophiles.
posted by dgaicun at 4:17 PM on March 14, 2009


Are you saying that the distinction between sex and violence is false?

Well, in some ways it is, isn't it? Testosterone is associated with libido and physical aggressiveness. I used to be of the "rape is never about sex!" theory but have since changed my mind, I mean, biologically it doesn't make sense.

Now, of course one's libido and tendency towards physical aggressiveness isn't wholly determined by that hormone. But that hormone does have an influence. The very fact that the removal of organs that produce it--ovaries and testes--tends to have such a dramatic effect on animal and human behavior in both of those areas acts as clear indication.
posted by schroedinger at 4:18 PM on March 14, 2009


One of the biggest lessons in being gay is feeling completely natural and right in my impulses, and yet having the sincerity and correctness of such questioned by people who can't relate to it at all; you would think that the 'pretend you woke up tomorrow and homosexuality was considered the norm' would help with that, but it doesn't seem to connect with people. I am not equating them, of course, but I have to assume that someone's sexual desire for children feels no different than my desire for someone of the same sex, and I find myself horrified for people who experience that and for their victims. Were I in the situation--if I could live with it in the first place--I would hope that I would recognize that it is wrong and that I would do everything possible to not be able to harm someone; but I don't imagine that process is easier than it would be for me to deny or suppress my own sexuality.

I don't doubt that we need to err on the side of protecting victims and potential victims, though I don't necessarily like how we carry that out. But I can't help but imagine the horror of someone who has this kind of desire and who feels powerless against it, particularly if they are sincerely fighting it. That has to be a dreadful existence, particularly in a society that reaches for blame before remedy.
posted by troybob at 4:20 PM on March 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sure that shrinks would have some reasons for focusing more on the dehumanizing and violent nature of the act than on the sexual elements, but as I'm not a shrink I'll confine myself to the speculation that they have a very precise and not semantically overloaded jargon for classifying these things.

You answered your own query: If I'm not mistaken, the "rape is about violence, not sex" argument was largely advocated in order to defray accusations that the victim somehow asked for or wanted the attack. If you say the attacker did it because they were aroused, then the automatic argument of the attacker is "Yeah, because you aroused me."
posted by schroedinger at 4:22 PM on March 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


schroedinger gets it (the rape as sex/violence distinction); certainly the lines can be hard to draw when you're talking about criminal motivations. We make this distinction because of a long and sordid history of blaming the victims of rape for seducing their attackers, often to a ridiculous degree (i.e., by simply existing and being female, she overwhelms his ability to control himself). I suppose that's a trope the "more tiresome types of feminists" can be blamed for; I don't think it's anything to apologize for.

It's easier to understand if you define "sex" as "requiring the consent of all parties involved." If anyone involved in a given act is not or cannot consent (anyone who is coerced, children, animals), it's not sex, it's violence. If the violence is committed via an act that would be sexual if consent were being given, it's rape. Ability of various seriously messed-up criminals to combine sexual arousal with non-sexual violent acts notwithstanding.
posted by emjaybee at 4:41 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


For anyone harping about "mutilation": There are prosthetics. Cancer dudes get 'em. You can even get them for your dog.

For anyone harping about "irreversiblilty": Plenty of infertile men manage to have kids. Adoption, sperm donors, etc.

Mandatory castration is definitely out, and "voluntary" is more than a little iffy. But if it's really voluntary, and if it really works, go nuts.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:45 PM on March 14, 2009


biologically it doesn't make sense

Really? If anything, I'd think bringing biology into it would just muddy the waters. I'd think the origins of sex would've been a violent attack, but I suspect that we evolved past that far back in the tree of life, at the very least when we developed pack behaviors. Sure we've got lizard wiring underneath that, but it's a pretty complex set of motivations now. I mean, there's got to be some reason why we can determine a difference between sex and rape at all now right?
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:07 PM on March 14, 2009


When my sister and I were sharing an apartment in Toronto, she was doing a rotation through forensic psychiatry and giving it some serious thought before finally going into another sub-field. Anyway, she would come home every day with mind-numbing stories of the crazy shit people do that get them put in jail. Of all the patients she dealt with in the various lockups she visited, the hardest ones for her were the pedophiles. To begin with, there's just the visceral reaction she (and most of us) had at being confronted with a person that had sexually violated and child. Add to that the sub-set of sadistic/sociopathic pedophiles that do really vicious things, don't give a fuck about the rightness or wrongness of their actions, and have no interest in stopping; in fact, many seemed to get a kick out of watching you try to maintain a poker face while they regaled you with the gruesome details of what they've done and what they'll do again.

But for my sister, the hardest thing was dealing with the otherwise-high-functioning and moral/ethical pedophiles. These were men (mostly) that were well aware that what they were doing was wrong and they had the empathetic capacities to understand the damage they were doing to their victims. What little social and familial network they used to have dissolved when their pedophelia came to light. Their emotional lives were often potent mixtures of desperation, exhaustion, frustration, and self-disgust; and all too often this led to self-destructive spirals of drug use or straight-out suicide.

My sister said that she had seen chemical castration used among those morally-conscious pedophiles that are desperate to have something approaching a normal life, and that the anecdotal results were better than any other treatment she had seen. She still felt profoundly ambivalent the treatment—even in its reversible chemical form—but she said that the results were undeniable.
posted by LMGM at 5:59 PM on March 14, 2009 [10 favorites]


Love the sexism in this thread. What about female rapists? How is recidivism helped by ovariectomies?
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:41 PM on March 14, 2009


The article reports that ovariectomies reduce recidivism. If this is correct, it's probably because hormones related to sex drive are cut off. I'm not well-versed in this stuff, but the ovaries are "both gonads and endocrine glands."

You should really explain what (which?) sexism you're talking about.
posted by grobstein at 6:50 PM on March 14, 2009


I'm not sure I understand the objections to voluntary castration; it has a clinically proven value. I have a male relative who has been castrated as a result of his prostate cancer; he has confided that his life isn't much different than it was before--it's certainly not "worse" just "different."

As always, we have plenty of people, and this helps in a real way. I'm just not seeing a slippery slope argument. And as pointed out above, being held in a US prison for any length of time is arguably many times worse than having your balls or ovaries clipped.
posted by maxwelton at 6:53 PM on March 14, 2009


"Pedophiles almost always re-offend"

Ya, except when they don't. The highest rate is for single, never married, men, who are attracted to boys and even there 23% don't re offend. Mind you these are Canadian pedophiles; Americans might be more hard core.
posted by Mitheral at 7:18 PM on March 14, 2009


But if it's really voluntary, and if it really works, go nuts.

I see what you did there.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:23 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Very next sentence from article: "A Norwegian study showed the same for selected male and female sex offenders (the women had their ovaries removed)." Though the gender inequality wouldn't bother me as such. Women just aren't that common as pedophiles, or especially serial pedophiles.

Mmm, abdominal surgery instead of easy to get at testicles. But I'll grant it might be possible because it was the least important of my points.
posted by Phalene at 8:06 PM on March 14, 2009


"Pedophiles almost always re-offend"

Ya, except when they don't. The highest rate is for single, never married, men, who are attracted to boys and even there 23% don't re offend. Mind you these are Canadian pedophiles; Americans might be more hard core.


Whoa. 77% are caught having committed another offense?

I'll repeat: the candidate for castration mentioned in the Gawande article molested over 200 children as a school bus driver and was caught for only one, a 6-year-old boy.

Sexual violence is underreported due to victim shame and fear. My guess is that when the victim is a child, there is even greater hesitation to tell. If 77% are caught, I have to say ... it's quite possible that close to 100% are re-offending.
posted by palliser at 9:06 PM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's an interesting bit of psychology which permits one to describe a choice which includes as one of the options "spending most of the rest of your life in jail" as being made without coercion.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:09 PM on March 14, 2009


I don't buy the concept that choosing castration under "duress" of facing a lifetime in jail has anything to do with taking away their choices and freedoms and whatnot

Tell that to the guy who has been railroaded through the system. An innocent person shouldnt have to decide "20 years in an awful prison with little chance of my appeal working or losing my testes and going back to my life tomorrow." Many rational people would make this choice, especially if they can get black market testosterone.

Oh, youre ignorant if you think the police wont abuse this option. "Lets see, we have two little girls who will say you touched them. Your balls or do what we tell you."

Its the potential for the abuse and innocents being convicted that nullifies any argument for cruel punishment. We see this all the time with the death penalty here in the states.

Anyone who disagrees is going to have to come up with a theory of criminal justice which cannot involve more than the barest rudiment of retributionary justice.

Psst. Courts arent perfect. Innocents get convicted every day. Thats why its immoral to do these brutal punishments.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:18 AM on March 15, 2009


Psst. Courts arent perfect. Innocents get convicted every day. Thats why its immoral to do these brutal punishments.

Brutality would be immoral even if all convicts were guilty.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:22 AM on March 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


people who buy sex toys in the wrong state, people who ignore age of consent laws of dubious protective value, people who urinate in public, people who looked at simulated sex acts the state doesn't approve of, children who took naked pictures of themselves, and so on.

Lets not forget minors who have sex with minors.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:25 AM on March 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I would say that obviously there are issues with the court system and that to the reasonable, logical bystander, charging a fourteen year old for having sex with a fourteen year old seems ludicrous, and that the amount of bureaucracy and abuse that runs rampant through the current system effectively makes this option an exacerbation of an already shitty situation. But that seems more like an argument for reforming that system, rather than ruling out an option like this altogether.
posted by Phire at 12:33 AM on March 15, 2009


Its also worth mentioning that because something "works" is not a justification to do a thing. For instance, its harder to be a thief if the state cuts off your hand. Its harder to lie if the state cuts off your tongue. I dont see why a country that institutes this policy wouldnt fall into something akin to Sharia law after a while. If you give the state permission to remove body parts for the sake of society, it will do so and with gusto.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:43 AM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


he has confided that his life isn't much different than it was before--it's certainly not "worse" just "different."

This isn't pro- or anti-, but I'd point out that people who lose limbs generally, a year later, are the same people (in terms of whether they are happy or not) as before their loss. Same with people who win the lottery. People adjust.

In this case it might be that the stigma is significant than the physical loss. Who knows?
posted by alasdair at 2:13 AM on March 15, 2009


is more significant
posted by alasdair at 2:13 AM on March 15, 2009


damn dirty ape, sure innocents get wrongfully convicted. It happens. But as long as reasonable precautions are used to ensure that they aren't, I don't consider this sufficient reason for not punishing convicts. After all, the criminal "justice" system doesn't punish perpetrators, it punishes convicts, i.e. those people which the system believes it has sufficient evidence against to convict. The ends don't justify the means; you're right. But I'm not basing my approval for this punishment on whether or not it affects recidivism. The means justify the ends. I frankly don't give two shits about whether this reflects some kind of deep, ultimate justice, because I don't think that's what states are doing. They're dispensing human justice, flawed as it is, and the failure to do so massively outweighs any failings that might crop up as a result of carrying out what I view as the state's primary duty.

And frankly, I don't have any problem with the state removing body parts for the sake of society. Go for it, I say. The failure to adequately punish crime is at least as big an injustice as wrongfully punishing innocents. I think it's immoral not to punish rapists in this way. Any state which can't/won't enact vengeance for the violation of its own statutes isn't a state worthy of the name.
posted by valkyryn at 4:47 AM on March 15, 2009


I'd point out that people who lose limbs generally, a year later, are the same people (in terms of whether they are happy or not) as before their loss. Same with people who win the lottery.

Is there a post about how badly winning the lottery tends to fuck people up? That'd be an interesting topic.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:45 AM on March 15, 2009


I think it's an interesting bit of psychology which permits one to describe a choice which includes as one of the options "spending most of the rest of your life in jail" as being made without coercion.

By the time the option is presented, the convict's sentence is a background fact. A prison sentence is not just one potential outcome, along with a third (complete freedom). Your belief that this is coercive by nature makes sense only if these options are presented before either of them has been imposed -- maybe as a plea bargain.

Damn dirty ape, what's offered is generally chemical castration -- it's reversible, and I'm not sure why "brutal" would describe it. In fact, why don't we just call it Anti-Androgen Therapy, like they do for cancer patients? Feel better, gentlemen?
posted by palliser at 7:02 AM on March 15, 2009


Chemical castration has many of the advantages of surgical castration, while still being reversible. The side-effects can be pretty nasty, but as long as it remains a voluntary option for violent sexual offenders, i see it as the lesser of two evils. Making it mandatory though makes me very uncomfortable, as either forced surgery or chemical treatment infringes on their human rights in a serious way.

Have you ever heard of Alan Turing? He was arrested for being gay (which was illegal) and given a choice between imprisonment and chemical castration; he chose the latter, got fired from his job, and he committed suicide 2 years later. Of course, part of the reason Turing's treatment is so distasteful is because nowadays we see homosexuality as natural and acceptable; while the same change of views has not happened regarding paedophilia, and is unlikely to in the future.

Also, I gather modern chemical castration techniques don't use estrogen injections. Wikipedia tells me (somewhat to my surprise) that California already has compulsory chemical castration for second-offence child molesters, and that Medroxyprogesterone is the chemical of choice nowadays. So perhaps our new chemicals are more humane.
posted by Mike1024 at 7:09 AM on March 15, 2009


By the time the option is presented, the convict's sentence is a background fact. A prison sentence is not just one potential outcome, along with a third (complete freedom). Your belief that this is coercive by nature makes sense only if these options are presented before either of them has been imposed -- maybe as a plea bargain.

Wait, wait, so what you're telling me is that when the only choices are a long prison term and chemical castration, that's less coercive than when there's the possibility of freedom? Having fewer choices is less coercive? Are you stupid or are you high?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:09 AM on March 15, 2009


There are a number of issues that can be resolved with research. Weekly injection is cumbersome, but it's likely that slow-release subcutaneous medication, which has been successfully used for birth control, would work. The Slate article sums it up well.

As a society, we have largely stopped involuntary longterm sequestration, in a hospital or prison. Typhoid Mary was eventually found, recognized to be a danger to others through no fault of her own, and lived the rest of her life in quarantine. People who continue to commit violent crimes because of their biology should be quarantined in some manner.
posted by theora55 at 8:14 AM on March 15, 2009


>> By the time the option is presented, the convict's sentence is a background fact. A prison sentence is not just one potential outcome, along with a third (complete freedom). Your belief that this is coercive by nature makes sense only if these options are presented before either of them has been imposed -- maybe as a plea bargain.

> Wait, wait, so what you're telling me is that when the only choices are a long prison term and chemical castration, that's less coercive than when there's the possibility of freedom? Having fewer choices is less coercive?


Um, yes. There is no possibility of complete freedom, as there would be if this were offered in a plea-bargain setting, where the criminal would still have the possibility of going to trial and being found not guilty.

The convict is in prison. Someone is saying, "Let's give them this option, so that they might get out." You're saying, "No, they might take it, so let's just keep them in jail." And then congratulating yourself on your superior concern for prisoners' rights.

Though tempted, I won't ask the same juvenile question you asked me.
posted by palliser at 9:12 AM on March 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


On second thought, I think I can put this differently and be better understood.

Life in prison without parole is a bad thing, right? Easily as dangerous to mental health as chemical castration. Okay, so say a prisoner is about to be executed, and someone says, "Let's offer him life in prison instead."

According to you, that choice is by nature coercive, because you can't understand the "psychology which permits one to describe a choice which includes as one of the options [the death penalty] as being made without coercion."

What I am saying is that such a choice is not coercive; the prisoner decides which is the lesser evil -- death or life in prison -- and complete freedom is not one of the potential outcomes at this point anyway.

What would be coercive is (you know where I'm going, right?) offering a suspect life in prison before he goes to trial, as an alternative to going to trial and potentially receiving the death penalty. That's coercive because the death penalty is not already a background fact; it's a potential outcome over which the suspect has only marginal control, at this point.
posted by palliser at 9:28 AM on March 15, 2009


People who continue to commit violent crimes because of their biology should be quarantined in some manner.

I believe we used to call these "Mental Institutions." Because we don't like paying taxes, it was decided to let these people out.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:31 AM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or we found out that lobotomies are cheaper. The history of the lobotomy should be a cautionary tale for the pro-castration people.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:27 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The history of forced sterilization and eugenics should be a cautionary tale for the pro-castration people.
posted by Mitheral at 3:49 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


And why exactly shouldn't gulags and concentration camps be a cautionary tale for the "pro-prison" people? You invent the pseudo-lessons from history you want to.

Resistance to the concept has nothing to do with history, and everything to do with the so-called "Wisdom of Repugnance". It makes you feel icky to tamper with biology, so it must be eeeeeevill.

But that doesn't make something right or wrong. Other people find gay sex "icky". Chemical castration doesn't make me feel "icky," and the case for allowing it is stronger: it is reversible, it is amazingly effective at stopping recidivism, it is preferred by many convicts themselves to losing most of their life in jail, they get to choose, and it more resembles a cure than a punishment.

"The ends doesn't justify the means"? This presupposes that your "ends" are somehow more enlightened. Why should convicted pedophiles be thrown jail as criminals when their problem is a medically manageable mental illness? Why should a biological problem be treated as a moral problem? How do you help someone by limiting their options? Especially options they themselves often prefer when offered? Shouldn't adults get to decide what's best for themselves, even if you don't agree?

Even if I was falsely convicted of rape, I would definitely choose to be able to continue my normal life with the chemical doping, instead of losing my life and my freedom to jail. You might not prefer that option, but I don't see why I should be denied that option, just because it makes you go "yuck".
posted by dgaicun at 4:38 PM on March 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, I'm sure nothing at all could go wrong with this.

""The ends doesn't justify the means"? This presupposes that your "ends" are somehow more enlightened."

The ends of not giving the government the power to tamper with people's biology? Gosh, why should anyone resist that *roevwadecough*?
Machiavelli said the ends justify the means, it's often misinterpreted, but the sense he meant it in was only for the purpose of stabilizing and improving governments.
That does bother me. We're not just talking about curing individuals mental illness but defining what is permissible for a government to do in enforcing not only the law but law enforcement defining what a mental illness is, what is socially dangerous and whether or not it is in need of 'cure' or 'usual' punishment. Even where a choice is offered, it's another weapon in a prosecutors arsenal
I resist law having dominion over what should be a medical choice. If a pedophile, or some other individual wished to be cured, free of coercion, and could come and do it without an "or" there - such as do it or go to jail, that might be defensible.
I have heard stories that there were sex offenders who wished to be chemically castrated. If it was on the advice of a doctor (psychiatrist or whatever) I can see it being a cure. The state could even sponsor it, as long as there weren't strings attached (such as suddenly opening an investigation on you).

But that aside - we're talking about a biological/chemical influence (and don't get me started on that, or even whether it's pure, or the industrial/pharmaceutical influence when the prison industry is rife with it ) fundamentally altering someone's personality - oh, we know (or at least if we believe the studies) that people are more contented after the change, but how do we know the person prior to the change would approve of the state of the person after the change when they're now in the state itself?

Huxley (if you follow the link) said, rightly, it is technologically possible to make people contented with their servitude.
I question why we should allow this barbarity - and cruel or not it is barbaric; certainly one can argue the act in and of itself, but no government not concerned with the more Machiavellian aspects of rule and retaining power would introduce this, so I consider it indicative of the governmental mindset - I question why we should allow this to be operated by the law enforcement element of our government and not the mental health services, if indeed we believe it is a 'cure.'

A Hobson's choice is still coercion. The only thing to dicker about is whether the state should be given these law enforcement powers. I think not. Whatever the case with the medical science.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:50 PM on March 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do they get to keep their dick? I'd let them cut my balls off if I got to keep my dick. I like my dick.
posted by tehloki at 10:09 PM on March 15, 2009


But you only like your penis because you have testosterone. After castration all that testosterone is gone and your sex drive will plummet. After a while you'll be unable to have an erection. So the people who are "treated" this way and are "cured" will never be able to have a normal sexual relationship. I wonder what percentage of people convicted for sex crimes simply do their time and get back into a normal relationship. Its probably not a trivial number.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:48 PM on March 15, 2009


Life in prison would fundamentally alter your personality as well. I'm sure if I were sentenced for crimes relating to an inability to control myself and came out of prison a half lifetime later as a "wiser, weaker man", I would perhaps relish the self control that age and the grinding breakdown of prison discipline instilled in me. At the same time, my younger self would probably think me weak and beaten down.

I'm not sure surgical castration is any worse, it's just that it's been around less time as a rehabilitative concept than incarceration, and we have not yet as a society encysted our awareness of castration in the same coating of ignorance and denial that we do imprisonment.

I agree that if castration is introduced and deemed effective, trendy or even just satisfying from the standpoint of retribution, terms of incarceration and punishment will be escalated until it is widely adopted. Maybe there is a middle ground where sentences and prisoner restrictions for such crimes could be frozen at the levels they are now so that it remains a choice, but it's doubtful that any agreement or legislation of the sort wouldn't be erased the next time politicians want to make a tough on crime statement. Given the general public attitude to pedophilia, in the long term it would almost certainly result in castration + the longest sentence that the prison system could afford to dish out.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:04 PM on March 15, 2009


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