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 estosterone 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 rime. 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. 4). 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- ffended, 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 ffenders 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 ommunity” (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 exual 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 ffenders 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 etween 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 he 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.