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Posted at 7:57 AM ET, 01/26/2011

Renewed push for castration in Va.

By The Associated Press

A Virginia legislator is renewing his push to allow castration of sex offenders as an alternative to the increasing costs of detaining and treating them after they've served their prison sentence.

Sen. Emmett Hanger's bill would require the state to study the use of physical castration as an alternative to costly civil commitment for those deemed sexually violent predators. The General Assembly approved similar legislation four years ago, but then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine vetoed it.

While opponents call the procedure barbaric and the proposal heavy-handed, Hanger argues castration is cost-effective for the state and could provide a cure for some offenders.

"I don't think it's radical at all," said Hanger, R-Augusta. "It's just something that's not typically the thing you want to bring up in polite conversation, but again the whole subject area is not for polite conversation.

"We're talking about people who are so driven because of the tendencies from the chemicals and the hormones inside their body to perform heinous acts. In that context, I think it's very appropriate to talk about something that could, perhaps, be a partial cure for them."

Eight other states allow for some form of castration for sex offenders, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only Louisiana and Texas allow for physical castration -- the surgical removal of the testes -- while other states opt for chemical castration through medications that reduce testosterone, which fuels a man's sex drive.

Hanger acknowledges that castration isn't the answer for all offenders but said studies have shown it to work on many. He said Virginia must come up with alternatives to civil commitment, which costs the state about $100,000 per offender each year.

"We have such need for our scarce resources and there's such a resistance to creating additional revenue to deal with core services, that spending money unnecessarily for a program like this, I think is a crime in and of itself," Hanger said.

Virginia is one of 20 states that have a civil commitment program. An offender is eligible if he has committed certain sex crimes and a psychiatrist determines he has a mental abnormality -- like being anti-social -- that makes him likely to offend again. A judge or jury makes the final determination.

Commitments shot up dramatically after a change in the law in 2006 that expanded the list of qualifying crimes from four to 28 and changed the test used to determine if an offender was likely to re-offend.

As a result, the program's budget ballooned from $2.7 million in 2004 to an expected $24 million this year.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed spending nearly $70 million over the next two years to meet the increasing demands, including opening a new facility because the 300-bed secure treatment center that opened in 2008 will be full this year.

Castration is an effective treatment when it is combined with therapy and other aspects of treatment, but it is not a cure-all, said Dr. Fred Berlin, director of the Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins University.

Berlin said opponents often compare castration to cutting off the hands of a thief, but he rebuffs that argument.

"This really gets at the motivation, the force that's energizing people who are committing these crimes rather than simply interfering with their inability to perform," he said.

But Berlin said there is no reason to subject offenders to the trauma of surgery when chemical castration accomplishes the same goal.

"It shouldn't simply be a rush to judgment and certainly shouldn't be done for punitive reasons with the idea that, 'We're going to castrate the bums,'" he said.

Mary Devoy, founder of Reform Sex Offender Laws of Virginia, called Hanger's proposal "a great bill with one shocking flaw."

"When abuse and mutilation of a human being is presented as an acceptable alternative to responsible treatment and housing for those deemed as sexually violent predators there exists a fault of reason," she said.

Devoy supports the part of Hanger's bill that also requires the state to examine the criteria for commitment and housing options for those released from the program. Currently, there are no halfway houses in Virginia that will take in these sex offenders, and officials will not allow offenders to be released unless they have family or friends living in Virginia to chaperone them.

Dr. Steven Wolf, director of the state's Office of Sexually Violent Predator Services, estimates at least 25 offenders could be released and monitored in the community if they had suitable housing. The cost would be about $21,000 a year for each offender, or about a fourth of holding someone in the psychiatric facility.

Some legislators balk at releasing offenders for fear they will commit another crime, but Hanger said there must be a balance between keeping the public safe and breaking the state's bank.

"We're going to have to establish a policy where we punish them, we treat them the best we can, but it's simply inappropriate policy to put them in an expensive treatment program that doesn't work and just keep them there needlessly," he said. "I think we're going to have to get a happy medium as far as public safety versus the cost."

By The Associated Press  | January 26, 2011; 7:57 AM ET
Categories:  Politics, Sex Crimes, Virginia  
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Comments

I wish they would quit calling it "chemical castration", because is makes it sound barbaric. It is only an occassional injection of depo-provera (the injectable contraception millons of women use). It lowers a man's libido. I have even heard of men who were so disturbed by their own sexual urges (such as pedophiles), that they volunarily took the injections.

If we were to start to call it something like "sexual urge reduction" or "libido reduction" it would become much more acceptable.

Posted by: wobbleman47 | January 26, 2011 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Just legalise Marijuana and release all the non-violent drug offenders from jail/prison. Then you'd have all the room for baby-rapers you want, and a huge prison cost savings.

Just another problem that can be solved by Marijuana Legalisation.

Posted by: MarilynManson | January 26, 2011 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Chemical 'castration' does not work, and is a myth put forth by a small sect of the medical community who treat their beliefs as a religion claiming that they are supported by science. There are male sexual predators that manage to continue to be sexually abusive after their testes have been removed and I doubt any thing short of removing a man's penis would work in terms of physical castration.

Posted by: 10bestfan | January 26, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

The most shocking thing to me about this article was that 8 other states already do it! I thought this was a radical idea... but apparently it is already being done.
I talk more about Virginia's controversial castration plan on my talk shows TPN Following and Watercooler on www.thepulsenetwork.com at 9 am EST and 12 EST or anytime on-demand. Let me know your thoughts @MaggieRulli!

Posted by: maggierulli | January 26, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

The most shocking thing to me about this article was that 8 other states already do it! I thought this was a radical idea... but apparently it is already being done.
I talk more about Virginia's controversial castration plan on my talk shows TPN Following and Watercooler on www.thepulsenetwork.com at 9 am EST and 12 EST or anytime on-demand. Let me know your thoughts @MaggieRulli!

Posted by: maggierulli | January 26, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Commonly Used Terms (www.atsa.com/ppOffenderFacts.html)
Child Molester -- The child molester is most often someone who is sexually attracted to adults, but may molest a young family member in a maladaptive attempt at meeting emotional needs. Many adults who molest a child they know were also abused as children, but could not or did not seek treatment. Thus they never addressed problems such as severe anger, lack of empathy, low self-esteem, and feelings of inadequacy. Especially if treated, incestuous offenders are much less likely to commit a new sex crime.
Juvenile Offender -- A growing number of offenders are actually children themselves. The most common ways for youths to wind up on the registry are “Romeo and Juliet” relationships, “sexting,” on phones or on social networking sites, or childish experimentation. Juveniles are highly responsive to treatment, and rarely re-offend as adults.
Pedophile -- Pedophiles are adults who are sexually attracted to prepubescent children. With therapy and behavioral management training, many pedophiles can successfully control their behavior, just as alcoholics can successfully stop drinking. True pedophilia is a relatively rare condition.
Predator -- Predators are persons who capture and sexually abuse children, usually outside of their family. These offenders often place themselves in positions of trust, authority, and easy access to youngsters that they do not know. Predators are usually not pedophiles, but instead enjoy inflicting pain, and have the highest recidivism rate (17%). Abductions by child predators are relatively rare, and less than 1% of sex crimes involve murder.
Pervert -- "a person whose sexual behavior is considered strange and unpleasant by most people" (Cambridge Dictionary)

Facts about sex offenders:
1. Not all sex offenders are the same. (www.csom.org/train/etiology/3/3_1.htm) Yet the media and politicians constantly use words like pedophile, pervert and predator to describe all sex offenders.
2. Not everyone on the registry has committed a sexual crime. Streaking and public urination are both crimes that are admissible on the registry. One man found himself on the registry for grabbing a girl's arm to lecture her when she stepped out in front of his moving car! (“Man grabs girl's arm –now he's a sex offender.” World Net Daily, 7/2/2005) http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp? ARTICLE_ID=45104
3. Plea agreements account for 95% of felony convictions. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges often press defendants into pleading guilty to a lesser offense to avoid jail, end a costly lawsuit, or support their families. As a result, people who might, in fact, be innocent of a sexual crime, will often plead guilty to the charge. (U.S. Sentencing Commission’s 2009 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics, Table C) (http://www.ussc.gov/ANNRPT/2009/SBTOC09.htm)

Reform Sex Offender Laws

Posted by: yellowroselady | January 26, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

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