The criminal justice system is an ever changing collection of laws, rules, and procedures. The death penalty is a good example of this. In America, different states have approved use of the death penalty, only to ban its use decades later, then change the rules again to allow its use. As society grows and changes, so do the requirements of justice and law enforcement. As new acts of a criminal or deviant nature are recognized, new laws, procedures, and punishments must be put in place to protect society. Such is the case with sex offenses.
In recent decades, more and more emphasis has gone into recognizing the heinous crimes of rape, sodomy, and other sexual abuses. We now recognize the psychological abuse that goes along with sex abuse. We have reached a point where we can recognize that seemingly consensual, deviant sex, may in fact be abuse that the victim has been manipulated into. Rape is no longer considered the fault of the victim, as it was decades ago. We have come a long way in understanding and criminalizing sexual abuse. But what can we do to stop repeat sexual offenders?
Sex crimes differ from most other criminal acts in basic ways. A person steals because they need money or food, or because they want what someone else has. Assaults are almost always the result of momentary anger. But a sexual offender commits their crime because they want sex. Now, there may be many reasons, some complicated, some simple, behind why the offender wants sex. But in each case this one fact remains: their crime involves sexual abuse. And the desire for sex doesn’t go away after a term in prison. Studies have found that recidivism rates for rapists range from seven to thirty-five percent. Recidivism rates for child molesters can be as high as forty percent.
So in considering a recidivist sex offender, an offender who commits sex-based crimes over and over, how can we stop them from committing their crime again? How do we as a society protect ourselves from these criminals?
As it stands now any prison sentence for sexual crimes, even Felony sex crimes, lasts only so long. After a period of years, the sex offender is released from prison back into society. Released back into society uncured, I might add. Because how do you take away a person’s desire for sex?
There is one way. And that is sterilization. Of course ormal sterilization (a vasectomy in a man’s case) will not take away the desire for sex. But methods such as chemical sterilization can take away a person’s sex drive. Physical castration is another method, used since the early times of recorded history to create eunuchs to serve royal families. But physical castration is painful, permanent, and repugnant to most people. Chemical castration on the other hand involves injections of medroxyprogesterone acetate, a chemical that dampens sex drive. There is no surgery involved, and no known serious side effects other than the intended one.
In 2008, Louisiana’s Governor signed legislation requiring this kind of sterilization for repeat offenders of rape, sexual battery, incest, and something called “aggravated crimes against nature.” So this kind of sentencing for sex offenders is not a new idea.
But it is a good idea.
The only other option, realistically, for offenders who won’t stop committing sex-based crimes against society is to create the expense and responsibility of locking them in a prison for life. As it stands now, there are few, if any, such sentences for even the worst repeat offenders. Some states such as New York have experimented with labeling repeat sex offenders “criminally insane” and placing them in special mental health prisons such as the Central New York Psychiatric Center near Marcy, New York, or in the State Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg. There are several problems with this tactic. First, most of these people aren’t insane. They are criminals, but not crazy ones. Second, these people have already served their sentence and this end-run around the statutory limits of their sentences amounts to unconstitutional punishment. And third, there are constant challenges to this continued incarceration, some of which have been won, allowing the sex offender to be released. And once released from these prisons, there is nothing keeping these criminals from repeating their vile acts on new victims.
Chemical sterilization, taking away the desire to commit sex-based crimes, is a humane way of ensuring the security and safety of society. It also allows sex offenders who would otherwise commit more crimes to instead become healthy members of society. In other words, it is in their best interests. Mandatory sterilization for repeat sex offenders should absolutely be allowed.