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 multi factor 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 (RAIN 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 (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 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 and psychotherapy, with recidivism rates of offenders who refused therapy but received psychotherapy" and found that only 18% receiving 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 have surgical castration; however, it is not mandated by state legislatures in the United States. As with chemical castration, there has not been extensive or long-term research on the use of surgical castration to reduce the recidivism rates of sex offenders in the United States. According to Robert Prentky (1997), surgically castrated sex offenders show significantly improved recidivism rates as low as 1.
1% to 7. 4%. When discussing methods of treatment for sex offenders to reduce recidivism rates, it is important to understand a few points about recidivism rates. Establishing the recidivism rates of sex offenders is a key concern for criminal justice researchers not only because of the "irrefutable harm that the offenses cause victims and the fear they generate in the community" (Recidivism of Sex Offenders, 2001) but because of a recidivism base rate's necessity in facilitating effective sex offender management. Labeling sex offenders into one single category might be an over generalization because of the variety of sex crimes offenders commit. When a base recidivism rate is created, the "characteristics of offenders most likely to recidivate can be isolated, serving to identify those with the highest likelihood of committing subsequent offenses" (Recidivism of Sex Offenders, 2001).
This will aid in the identification of offenders who are most responsive and "appropriate for participation in treatment and specialized supervision and what components those interventions must include" (Recidivism of Sex Offenders, 2001). Recidivism rates are largely dependent on the characteristics of the sex offender. According to research completed by Scalora and Garbin (2003) "recidivism is significantly related to quality of treatment involvement, offender demographics, offense characteristics, and criminal history." One of the greatest predictors of future deviant sexual behavior is past deviant sexual behavior. The longer the pattern of deviant sexual behavior, the more ingrained the behavior will be, and the more likely it will continue. Also "higher levels of deviant sexual arousal indicate a higher likelihood that offenders will sexually recidivate" (Scalora and Garbin, 2003).
Other factors that increase an offender's chance of recidivism are marital status and relationship instability, unemployment and employment instability, and age. Research about the recidivism rates of sex offenders is conflicting. Some research shows a marked improvement of offenders who have received treatment (Barbaree and Marshall, 1988); however, other research shows little or no improvement at all (Rice, Quinsey, and Harris, 1991). Not only is there a discrepancy between the results of different studies, there are discrepancies between the recidivism rates of certain sex crimes. For example, in Marshall and Barbaree's study (1988) the recidivism rates of incest offenders ranged between 4 and 10 percent, rapists ranged between 7 and 35 percent, child molesters of female victims ranged between 7 and 35 percent, and child molesters of male victims ranged between 13 and 40 percent.
Research findings are wide ranging. Disparity results when base recidivism rates do not use the same definitions for crime. Some studies base their results on any criminal sex acts committed, while others use only those criminal sex acts in which an arrest is made, while still others use only convictions of sex crimes while determining their base recidivism rate (Recidivism of Sex Offenders, 2001). It is clear to see, a recidivism rate based on any criminal sex act committed will be considerably higher than criminal sex acts in which a criminal conviction is made.
In addition, it is thought among researchers the recidivism rates for sex offenders is low due to the dark figure of crime and the prevalence of low reporting of sex crimes to police (Recidivism of Sex Offenders, 2001)." Recidivism of Sex Offenders" (2001) suggests the discrepancies are in part due to the study populations, research criteria, and criminal definitions. The recidivism rate depends largely on the types of sexual offenses being studied and the length of follow-up after conviction. Based on the Barbaree and Marshall Study (1988) there is a definite difference between the offence types, with incest offenders having a rate as low as four percent and child molesters of male victims have a rate as high as forty percent. The Prentky, Lee, Knight, and Cerce study (1997) on new sex offense charges illustrates recidivism disparity if one uses different follow-up length data.
In the study, rapists had a recidivism rate of nine percent after one year, while after 25 years, they had a 39 percent recidivism rate. Discrepancies can be minimized if similar study populations, research criteria, and criminal definitions are used. Methodology Due to the dangerous nature of individuals who commit acts of sexual deviance and the difficulty in securing interviews from convicted sex offenders, the method of study and subsequent analysis manifests out of the research technique: theory integration or the multi factor approach which emphasizes the identification and analysis of multiple factors (Akers, 1973, 1977; Elliot, 1985; Krohn, 1986; Feld on, 1986; Thornberry et. al. , 1987, 1991; and Barlow 1993). This rather eclectic emphasis on research design is substantial because it fosters broader experimentation with any one theory and allows for variations on a theme.
This in turn makes it possible to identify and reconcile several commonalities between theories, while at the same time, producing a synthesis superior to any one theory individually (Farnworth, 1989). In essence, a methodology that uses an eclectic or multi-factorial strategy gives rise to a more comprehensive examination of the research question. The researcher merely begins with a particular theory and extends it as far as possible in order to build a more comprehensive model. The model comes to life by the logical extension and integration of the most basic propositions found in each theory. For example, researchers working in the field of criminology, medical personnel, and social observers are presented with the problem of recidivism amongst sex offenders. They are continually searching for new methods, in this case, chemical castration and physical castration, to potentially address and diminish the chances of a sex offender committing subsequent deviant sex acts.
Since the empirical research on sex offender recidivism rates widely varies, it is my intention that an integration between the Theory of the Born Criminal (Cesare Lombroso, 1876), Psychoanalytic Theory (Sigmund Freud, 1905), and the Theory of Anomie (Emile Durkheim, 1897) will provide an epistemological framework for improving our understanding of the methods that will or will not be effective in reducing the recidivism rates of sex offenders. Although this study does not put forth any generalizations pertaining to sex offenders and their particular deviance's, a study of this type is significant in that it clarifies several issues related to the potential societal risk factors involved with using chemical castration and physical castration as a method of sex offender control and reduction of recidivism rates. Findings and Analysis According to the literature, many legislators, corrections personnel, and medical staff debate about the effectiveness of lengthy prison sentences and psychological treatment on an offender's eventual rehabilitation. Even more disputable is what to do with the offender once his prison sentence is finished and it is time for him to return to the community. Many parties in the criminal justice system do not feel entirely comfortable with releasing sex offenders back into the community after they complete their prison sentences due to high sex offender recidivism rates. In turn, the California legislature has ruled sex offenders may be held in a state hospital until they have been deemed safe to release back into the community, even if it means they remain in the hospital indefinitely.
The locked-down state hospitals are becoming more crowded as judges are determining in greater numbers sex offenders should be sent to the hospital instead of being released back into the community. Because of the overcrowding of prisons and hospitals and a general unknowing ness of what to do with sex offenders once their prison terms are up, criminal justice employees have been forced to come up with new methods of treatment for offenders, namely chemical castration and physical castration, in order to make the offender less of a danger to the community. First this paper will analyze the implications of the effectiveness of chemical castration on sex offender recidivism rates based on the literature reviewed, then will move to the implications of physical castration. Although the recidivism rates of chemical castrates reviewed in the literature seem to be positive, the research on chemical castration poses two problems. The first problem is a sample bias in the study by Meyer, Cole, and Emory (1997). In the study, the chemical castrates re-offended twice as less as the sex offenders studied who were not castrated.
The sample with the chemical castrates was comprised of offenders who agreed to be chemically castrated, while the other sample was comprised of offenders who refused chemical castration. It might have been possible that the offenders who agreed to chemical castration wanted to rehabilitate, while the offenders who refused chemical castration did not want to change their deviant behavior. If the offenders in the second sample did not want to change their deviant behavior, of course they are going to have higher recidivism rates than those offenders in the first sample who wanted to change their behavior. The second problem with chemical castration has to do with a sex offender's underlying motivation for his sex crime. Using chemical castration to control a sex offender's sex drive is going about the problem of recidivism all wrong.
The desire to control, dominate, terrify, and humiliate a victim will be there regardless of sex drive. If rape and sex crimes are not primarily motivated by sexual desire, chemi cal castration is rendered useless, especially if chemical castrates retain some form of sexual functioning. A solution to the recidivism problem needs to be less concerned with sex, as is the offender when he commits his crime, and more concerned with curbing the desires of the sex offender and his fascination with control, domination, terror, and humiliation. Several issues arise when talking about physical castration.
Low recidivism research findings may be deceiving. "A substantial percentage of surgical castrates retain sexual functioning" (ATSA, 1997). Based on a sex offender's primary motivations of control, domination, terror, and humiliation, as with chemical castration, physical castration to reduce an offender's libido is not going to be an effective tool in recidivism reduction. The reason Stephen Norten, a surgically castrated sex offender in California seeking release from a state hospital, was denied release was the belief that his deviance is more a mental problem than a physical problem. Prosecutor David Lehr stated "Norten's taste for stalking boys is ingrained and did not disappear when he was castrated. His fondness for boys has lasted a lifetime.
It does not just go away" (Chawkins, 2002). The effects of physical castration on a sex offender may be nullified if replacement androgen's are taken to bring testosterone levels back to pre-castration levels. Some states that have mandates for chemical castration as a condition of parole allow an offender to opt for surgical castration instead of chemical castration. A "Florida sex offender received a reduced sentence in 1999 after undergoing surgical castration" (Marosi, 2001). Surgical castration in lieu of chemical castration may have devastating results, considering replacement androgen's can easily and legally be bought from a pharmacy.
In essence, aside from an offender having replacement prostheses and having to take replacement androgen's, mentally he is the same as he was pre-castration. "There is no guarantee that the surgery will change lifelong behavior" (Marosi, 2001). If a jury is to rule on the release of a surgical castrate, they must take into consideration public safety. The question to ask a jury is, "Do you fear this person?" The answer is almost always invariably going to be "Yes" if there is not a fool proof way to guarantee sex offenders are not going to recidivate.
Based on the literature, neither chemical castration, nor physical castration is a fool proof way to cure sex offender deviance and recidivism. The third issue with physical castration has to do with its legality, regardless of if it reduces the recidivism rates of sex offenders. There is great debate over whether physical castration constitutes a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This is the main reason legislation has not passed mandating physical castration as a condition of a sex offender's parole. The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers is one such interest group that vehemently opposes surgical castration citing "there are alternative and less invasive treatments available" (ATSA, 1997).
This paper will now use theory integration to attempt to describe the previously mentioned literature and subsequent analysis thereof and why despite some positive castration studies, chemical castration and physical castration do not appear to be effective methods of reducing sex offender recidivism. Biological Positivist Theories can be loosely applied to explain the findings and how chemical castration and physical castration will affect the recidivism rates of sex offenders. Biological Positivist Theories, ultimately originating from the work of Cesare Lombroso, "make the assumption about human nature that human behavior is more or less determined by internal factors" (Curran, 2001). Such theories reason crime is not a rationally chosen behavior; it is the result of a person's biologically determined genetic makeup. Lombroso states, unless a person is "specially prevented," he will inevitably violate society's social and legal rules (Tolbert, 2004). Although there are flaws with Lombroso's research in the studies he conducted and the conclusions he derived, his theoretical framework cannot be completely thrown out without further research.
Currently, neuroscientist's are examining the correlation between the presence of abnormal hormone levels in a person's brain and the relationship to criminal behavior, certainly a factor that is biologically determined. Research indicates animals that show a higher level of testosterone correlate to an increased incidence of aggression (Curran, 2001). Research is still being conducted as to whether the increased testosterone levels will lead to criminal behavior in human beings. If this is the case, then clearly, the reduction of testosterone production by chemical castration and physical castration will be beneficial in reducing the recidivism rates of sex offenders. Other such research is not as promising. Studies regarding whether abnormal size, tissue, or damage to a specific part of the brain precipitates criminal behavior is also still debatable.
If criminals, namely sex offenders, show physical abnormalities of the brain, certainly castration will not reconcile the deviance, in turn causing lower recidivism rates. Again, although Lombroso's research was rudimentary at best, his theories on biological determinism cannot be ruled out until there is hard evidence that criminal behavior is not based on biological factors. Once this is determined, then we can better evaluate the effectiveness of castration on the recidivism rates of sex offenders. Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytic Theories can also loosely aid in the understanding of methods to reducing the recidivism rates of sex offenders. Freud postulated "all sexual aberrations, variations, and perversions are real-time scenarios playing out during the development of normal human sexuality" (Tolbert, 2004).
According to Freud, everybody goes through stages of psychological development when growing up. The stages of growth are termed the oral, anal, phallic, and genital stages. The "temperament" of an adult is the directly related to how one deals and reconciles his or her stages of development. Most important to this paper is the genital stage where the Oedipus/Castration Complex occurs; "libidinous feelings toward the parent of the opposite sex, often also involving rivalry with the parent of the same sex" (Tolbert, 2004). If the Complex is reconciled, a superego is developed; a conscience to help the boy conform to societal norms. This stage of development can be facilitated by nurturing parents or hindered by the lack thereof.
If the boy does not successfully negotiate this stage, a normal conscience will not develop, in turn leading to "nonconformity, then an expression of unregulated" (Curran, 2001) sexual id impulses. Although Freud's Stages of Development and Oedipus/Castration Complex may seem far fetched, with extrapolation, they do possess possible explanations for criminal behavior and implications for the reduction of recidivism among sex offenders. When explaining criminal behavior, Freud's descriptions of the Oedipus/Castration Complex cannot be taken literally. When one takes the Oedipus/Castration Complex to mean a growing affection for the parent of the opposite sex, the theory makes more sense than the literal version describing "libidinous feelings" and desires for a boy to have sex with his mother. If a mother rejects the new affection of her son and does not give him adequate attention and care in return, the boy will begin to foster anger toward her. As this anger grows, he "may wish to punish her by physically" (Curran, 2001) harming her.
As a result, he becomes violent and displaces his anger toward all women by abusing and raping any female who spurns his advances (Curran, 2001). By extrapolation from Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory, sexual violence and deviance is explained. Sexual deviance does not result from increased testosterone levels, but from psychological problems. In this respect, chemical castration and physical castration will not be effective in reducing recidivism rates.
If the offender is suffering from psychological problems, as opposed to increased testosterone levels, then hormone reduction will not aid in decreasing deviance. Psychological treatment would be more appropriate. The third theory that will be discussed in an attempt to understand sexual deviance is the Theory of Anomie by Emile Durkheim. In society, anomie results when there are not enough adequate or appropriate regulations to govern social interaction. This usually occurs during social change such as population growth, industrialization, and urbanization (Curran, 2001). Crime during a time of anomie is a result of the social structure, not a person's state of mind.
"It is a time when an individual's desires are no longer regulated or guided by common norms. As a consequence, individuals are left without moral guidance in the pursuit of their goals" (Tolbert, 2004). Durkheim's Theory of Anomie can explain the causes of many criminal behaviors, namely the formation of gangs, degradation of urban neighborhoods, and psychopathic behavior. This paper will focus on the Theory of Anomie in relation to psychopathic behavior.
Many sex offenders exhibit qualities of a psychopath. They have no remorse for the harm they cause their victims, which leads the offender to continue his victimization (Curran, 2001). Offenders in a state of pathology rarely respond to any form of treatment, especially if the pathology began at an early age. The Theory of Ano my, however, takes the responsibility off the offender and puts it back on society. Assuming Durkheim's theory is true, treating the offender, in this case with chemical or physical castration, will not be effective in reducing offender recidivism rates, especially if the offender exhibits pathological traits. When a society is in a state of anomie, it is the society that needs to be treated, not the offender.
Based on the literature, at present the treatment and rehabilitation of sex offenders is a major issue in the criminal justice system. Although the motivations of chemical castration and physical castration to reduce the recidivism rates for all sex offenders are flawed, one cannot entirely denounce their effectiveness. More studies need to be conducted to isolate the characteristics of offenders who are most likely to re-offend and what the motivations behind their deviant acts are, for example, if they are biologically motivated as with Lombroso's Theories of the Born Criminal, if the motivations stem from a psychological nature as put forth by Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytic Theories, or if they are socially motivated as in Emile Durkheim's Theory of Anomie. Once their motivations are determined, it will be easier to establish an effective treatment plan that may or may not include castration. At the present, not enough is known about the biological, psychological, and sociological factors influencing crime and the effectiveness of castration, chemical or physical, to levy both methods of treatment against public safety or to use either as the sole tool to determine the release of an offender if that offender would not otherwise have been considered for release.
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