Chemical Castration

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A Critical Analysis of the Effects of Chemical Castration and Physical Castration on the Recidivism Rates of Sex Offenders


This paper examines the effects of chemical castration and physical castration on the recidivism rates of sex offenders. Using theory integration or the multifactor approach, the findings reveal there are several factors influencing sex offender recidivism. Both chemical castration and physical castration have the potential to reduce the recidivism rates of sex offenders by lowering testosterone levels, diminishing sexual urges, and making sexual urges more controllable if the sexual urges are motivated by increased testosterone levels. Based on theory integration, most sex offences are not motivated by an increased testosterone level but innate biological features, psychological disorders, and social factors making chemical castration and physical castration ineffective in curing most origins of sexual deviance.

Literature Review

This paper presents a critical analysis of the effects of chemical castration and physical castration on the recidivism rates of sex offenders. In this paper, the term sex offender is defined as a person who has been convicted of a sex crime and released back into the community either directly after sentencing or after serving time in prison for the commission of the sex crime. It should be noted that both men and women commit criminal sex acts, however, this paper will focus on the male offender.

First and foremost, it is of prime importance to clarify the nature of rape and sex crimes. According to Groth and Birnbaum's study in "Men Who Rape: the Psychology of the Offender" (1979), the motivation for rape and sex crimes stems most commonly from anger and the need to dominate, terrify, and humiliate one's victim, not from pent-up sexual desire. "Rape is an act of violence in which sex is used as a weapon" (Benedict, 1992, p.14). Rape is used to control one's victim in the same way a gun is used to control a store clerk in a robbery. Both are methods of control in order to get what one wants. The majority of men cannot even sustain an erection or ejaculate during the commission of a sex crime (Men against Sexual Violence, 2003). Contrary to popular belief, rape is not the fulfillment of an overly stimulated libido; it is primarily a tool to exert power over a victim.

Sex crimes and sex offender rehabilitation are of growing concern in contemporary America. Somewhere in the United States a woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes. 44% of rape victims are children under the age of eighteen. Unfortunately, only one out of sixteen rapists will ever get convicted and serve jail time; the other fifteen will walk free (RAINN Statistics, 2003). There is debate about what to do with the small percentage of sex offenders who do wind up in prison. Some states and criminal justice agencies are experimenting with new methods of dealing with paroled sex offenders, namely chemical castration and physical castration, in order to curb sex offender recidivism. Laws were first passed in the United States in 1996 allowing for the chemical castration of sex offenders. Chemical castration is the medicinal treatment of deviant sexual behavior by reducing testosterone secretion in order to "diminish sexual preoccupation and urges, making self-control easier" (Treatment of Men with Paraphilia, 1998). "Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate) is named as the legally mandated drug of choice for chemical castration" (Castration and Drug Therapy, 1999). The drug is administered by injection. California was the first state to enact legislation in support of chemical castration. According to the California Board of Prison Terms (2003) "any person guilty of a first conviction of specified sex offenses, where the victim is under 13 years of age, may be required to receive medroxyprogesterone...
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