Chemical Treatment for Sex Offenders

Castration of Sex Offenders: Prisoners’ Rights Versus Public Safety, 2003


Sexual victimization of children and adults is a significant treatment and public policy problem in the United States. To address increasing concerns regarding sex offender recidivism, nine states have passed legislation since 1996 authorizing the use of either chemical or physical castration. In most statutes, a repeat offender’s eligibility for probation or parole is linked to acceptance of mandated hormonal therapy. Future legal challenges to this wave of legislation will probably include arguments that such laws violate constitutional rights guaranteed to the offender by the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. When the promise of freedom is predicated on mandated treatment, the clinician must carefully assess the validity of informed consent.

The first reported use of hormonally based medications to reduce pathological sexual behavior in men occurred in 1944 when the progesteronal hormonal compound diethylstilbestrol (previously used as female contraceptives) was prescribed to lower male testosterone.

Alan Turing was famously subjected to chemical castration to ‘cure’ his homosexuality in 1952, and committed suicide two years later.

In 1959, a report discussed the clinical use of DES (Stilboestrol) for suppression of sexual behaviour of chronically ill male psychiatric patients.

Diethylstilbestrol was just the first of many such drugs, as by the 1960s, others, notably including medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), were being used to treat sex offenders and others displaying sexually-deviant behavior, like exhibitionists. MPA remained one of the major drugs in chemical castration, joined by others in later years as the science progressed.

2019, Alabama : A new bill, passed by the state legislature, awaiting the governor’s signature – see the proposed law – says a judge must order anyone convicted of a sex offense involving a child under the age of 13 to start receiving testosterone-inhibiting medication a month before their release from prison.


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