photo: Jo Jakeman
photo: Jo Jakeman

Since 1996 nine states have legalized either chemical or physical castration in certain instances for repeat sex crime offenders. In the majority of cases the castration is a condition to be eligible for probation or parole. Methods of sterilization were first used in large numbers in the 1920s after the United States Supreme court upheld a statute mandating sterilization of the unfit, a term that included the mentally retarded. (Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200, 1927). More recently hormonotherapy/chemical castration has been used; chemicals are taken to lower a man’s testosterone. In 1996, California was the first state to authorize castration for some repeat sex offenders as a condition of their release. In some of the 9 states, like Texas, the state covers the cost of the procedure, while in other states, like Iowa, the offender pays the fees. The statutes continue to vary by state, some mandated for sodomy (California), others have a small pilot program (Oregon), and all of them concentrate on those who had victims that were minors under 18, under 13, etc . . . A table of the varying rules can be seen in “Castration of Sex Offenders: Prisoners’ Rights Versus Public Safety”  (Scott & Holmberg 2003). Goergia is the only state of the 9 that requires a psychological evaluation of the offender, something important when the patient is given a choice of chemical and physical castration.

However, there are many legal professionals and american citizens against the increased use of castration for sex crime offenders. One of the strongest arguments in opposition is that, “Castration reduces or eliminates deviant sexual thoughts and fantasies, thereby infringing on the sex offender’s First Amendment right to entertain sexual fantasies” (Scott & Holmberg). There is also the expect challenge to the Eight Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Also, since most of these statutes link the castration to parole, an inmate who refuses castration will recieve additional jail time, a punishment. This essentially means that the offenders are coerced into the action violating the statutes’ intentions that they do in fact “volunteer”.

Utah does not currently use any means of castration against sexual offenders, but they might follow the trend in the future.