Chemical Castration: A Public Safe Guard or Rights Violation

Chemical Castration: A Public Safe Guard or Rights Violation

A Story by Jenn

This is an essay I wrote last year.


Chemical Castration: A Public Safe Guard or Rights Violation

            Throughout history castration has been used by society for various reasons, in the 1800’s castration started being used on sexual deviants by Dr. Henry Sharp (Scott and Holmberg). This castration was invasive, painful, and required the offender to undergo surgery. Nearly one hundred years later a new wave of castration is used for those who are sexual predators. Depo-Provera is a noninvasive and completely reversable form of chemical castration. Currently used in nine states, chemical castration has been hailed as a safe and effective way to reduce the recidivism rates of sex offenders. On the other side, it has also been seen as a violation of the offenders’ constitutional rights. The state should mandate chemical castration for sex offenders as an effective means of reducing recidivism because the process of chemical castration doesn't violate an offenders’ constitutional rights and is the least invasive form of offender castration.

            First used and studied as a means for chemical castration in 1968, Depo-Provera, also known as medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPC), was studied by Atascadero State Hospital and proven to be effective in reducing sexual desires in men (Theodore A. Kiersch). Over the course of sixty-four weeks, male volunteers were given Depo-Provera via an injection into the gluteal muscles then subjected to audio and visual sexual fantasies to gauge how their sexual drive and desires changed over the trial period. The study showed that while the sexual drive of these volunteers was significantly diminished, their sexual fantasies remained the same. Though chemical castration did not change the sexual fantasies of volunteers, it did accomplish the task of recidivism, reducing the tendency for sexual deviance. Though there have not been many studies conducted on chemical castration, those that have were successful.

 In Kiersch’s study on the use of Depo-Provera as a treatment for sex offenders, the injection was successful on all volunteers, ranging in age from twenty-one to thirty-eight. The injection works by increasing the amount of progesterone in the human body, progesterone reduces the amount of testosterone in the body resulting in lower sexual libido in both men and women (Theodore A. Kiersch). In this particular study those who received the inject saw a significant decrease in the penis’ ability to respond to vocal and visual stimulation, meaning no erection was achieved. The inability to create a sexual response with a penial erection is the reason it is called chemical castration (Norman-Eady). Despite its success as a noninvasive, and reversible form of treatment for sex offenders, chemical castration still receives a significant amount of opposition from those advocating for the rights of offenders. Those who oppose chemical castration cite the United States constitution, particularly the first, eighth, and fourteenth amendments (Logue).

Our first amendment right is the right to freedom of speech, typically this has been applied to include the freedom of ideology as well. However, when sexual ideology slips from fantasy into reality via sexual acts, photos, or videos, it is no longer merely and ideology. It is a real tangible thing that puts society at risk. The first amendment does protect the ideology of sexual fantasies, but it does not protect the deviant sexual acts once they slip from realm of ideology (Logue). To use the first amendment as a reason to be an exception to the rule with chemical castration, it will lead to a slippery slope with other crimes as well once they slip from fantasy into reality. Chemical castration is used after the sexual deviant behavior has already occurred, therefore the first amendment right protecting speech and ideology cannot possibly apply.

While the first amendment is clearly not applicable, there is a sounder logic behind the violation of the eighth amendment. The eighth amendment prevents cruel and unusual punishment for criminals. Three factors are used to determine if something is considered cruel and unusual punishment. First, is the punishment cruel or excessive? Second, is the punishment proportional to the crime that has been committed? And lastly, is there a less intrusive way for the state to still achieve their goal (Scott and Holmberg) ?

 Determining if something is considered cruel under the constitution is very clear. There is a set of criteria that must be met. It must violate a person’s dignity, create wanton pain, and violate decency standards. (Stinneford) In this aspect it is important to note that many prescription medications are often prescribed for off label use, meaning the FDA approved it for a different medical condition other than the one it is being used for. The FDA has approved Depo-Provera as a method of birth control for women. In this regard it could be seen as violating the dignity of males. However, drugs specifically for males are also used off label for females, an example of this is the drug Viagra, used in men for erectile disfunction, it is used in women for hypertension (Viagra and Cialis for heart failure). Since it is being used off label, as many other drugs have, it makes this argument irrelevant.

 Chemical Castration is only used under certain circumstances and rarely for first time offenders, the victim must be a minor under 15 in most states, and it must be part of an active treatment plan (Norman-Eady). This type of treatment isn’t applied to all sex offenders, only the offenders who have shown the courts they are unable to be rehabilitated and need medical intervention to prevent recidivism. Though chemical castration is usually required to continue after the offender is released from incarceration, it is still completely reversable. Once the offender can prove to the courts that the chemical castration is no longer need it can be stopped, effectively ending castration. This ensures that the punishment is proportional to the crime that has been committed.

There is another form of castration available, however unlike chemical castration, surgical castration requires that the person go through surgery, and it cannot be reversed. Depo-Provera is a far less invasive way to achieve the same goal as surgical castration, but the risks are far less. It is clear that all three requirements needed to prove a violation of the eighth amendment have not been met in regard to chemical castration. Therefore, it cannot violate an offenders’ constitutional rights under this amendment.

For those that oppose chemical castration as a violation of the fourteenth amendment, once again there are condition that must be met to prove a violation of due process. The two conditions that must be met are simple. The medication must be medically appropriate, and it must further the states overall goal without less intrusive means being available (Stinneford). The purpose of using Depo-Provera as a means of chemical castration is to reduce the testosterone in the male body, replacing it with progesterone, to lower the sexual desires of offenders and in turn reduce their rates of recidivism. In the majority of states that have chemical castration, a medical professional must set up the course of treatment deeming it medically appropriate. Though other means of castration exists and is available to the state, chemical castration is the least invasive option because it is a shot in the hip once a month, it can be stopped at any time, and it is completely reversible. When considering if an offenders fourteenth amendment rights are violated, it is clear to see that neither stipulation is met meaning their rights have not been violated.

Overall, the rights of offenders are not violated in accordance with the first, eighth, or fourteenth amendments. It is imperative to provide victims, victim’s families, and the general public with protection form sex offenders, aside from incarceration, to ensure the risks of recidivism are as low as possible. Chemical castration offers this option in a noninvasive and completely reversable method. That is why the state should mandate chemical castration for sex offenders as an effective means of reducing recidivism.



Works Cited

Logue, Derek W. Castration of Sex Offenders: "Off with their heads". 13th May 2011.

Norman-Eady, Sandra. "Castration of Sex Offenders." Research Report. 2006.

Scott, Charles L. and Trent Holmberg. "Castration of Sex Offenders: Prisoners' Rights Versus Public Safety." Journal of the American Acadamy of Psychiatry and the Law (2003): 502-509.

Stinneford, John F. "Incapacitation Through Maiming: Chemical Castration, The Eighth Amendment, and the Denial of Human Dignity." University of St. Thomas Law Journal (2006): 569-599.

Theodore A. Kiersch, MD. "Treatment of Sex Offenders with Depo-Provera." Journal of the American Acadamy of Psychiatry and the Law Online (1990): 179-187.

"Viagra and Cialis for heart failure." Harvard Health publishing September 2012.



© 2019 Jenn

Author's Note

I wrote this essay as a Criminal Justice major in 2018. This is just my view...What is your opinion?

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Added on May 18, 2019
Last Updated on May 18, 2019