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

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

Introduction

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 acetate treatment upon parole, and any person convicted of two such

offenses must receive the treatment during parole.".

Chemical castration has been studied for the last twenty five years, however, due to the newness of legislation in the

United States, there have not been many long-term research projects involving the effectiveness of chemical castration in

reducing sex offender recidivism rates completed in the United States. However, one such study by Meyer, Cole, and Emory

published in 1997 looks promising. The study "compared recidivism rates of 40 convicted sex offenders treated over a

period of years with medroxyprogesterone and psychotherapy, with recidivism rates of offenders who refused

medroxyprogesterone therapy but received psychotherapy" and found that only 18% receiving medroxyprogesterone re-

offended, while 35% of those not receiving therapy re-offended."

Physical or surgical castration is the removal of the testes and replacement with prostheses in order to reduce

testosterone production, therefore, diminishing sexual urges and making behavior more controllable. Sex offenders can opt to

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