HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania state senator proposes chemical castration for certain sexual offenders.
Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Cambria/Centre/Clearfield, circulated a legislative memo ahead of the planned introduction of a bill seeking to institute chemical castration as a term of parole for repeat offenders along with those convicted of committing sexual crimes against kids under age 13.
According to Langerholc, the bill would seek to mandate that qualifying sex offenders be injected with a testosterone-reducing drug before release. The treatment is for males only. A judge would have discretion for how long an offender would remain on the drug — that is, according to the memo, until the judge believes the offender is no longer a risk to re-offend.
The aim, said Langerholc, a former prosecutor, is to thwart recidivism.
Langerholc said the initiatives mesh with the movement in the General Assembly to reform parole while also addressing recidivism.
“It may in essence shock the conscience,” Langerholc said of the term “castration” and its application. “If you dive deeper and see there are other states who have introduced it, it has withheld any kind of legal challenges to date, if it’s something that can reduce these horrible incidents of preying on our young children, that’s something we need to look at.”
There are at least 10 states with varied laws concerning chemical castration as a parole condition, mandatory or voluntary, according to USA Today: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin. Langerholc’s memo suggests voluntary chemical castration as a potential option. A proposal was also under consideration in New Mexico this year.
The ACLU has opposed proposals in some of these states.
A spokesperson for the ACLU of Pennsylvania reserved specific comment on Langerholc’s memo, noting they’d first need to read the bill language whenever it’s introduced. However, Andy Hoover, communications director, said the organization sees mandatory or non-consensual medical procedures of any kind raise “significant privacy concerns and would almost certainly violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”
Newsweek reported on a convicted child rapist in Louisiana who was to undergo chemical castration, though he’s not eligible for parole for decades.
Medical castration, or hormone therapy, is used as a treatment for breast cancer and prostate cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The effect, which is reversible, is to reduce one’s sexual libido but it wouldn’t wholly eliminate urges, experts say.
Langerholc called the memo a starting point. He wants to gauge the level of support.
“When we come back into session this fall we’ll have a discussion,” Langerholc said.
The state Senate reconvenes on Sept. 18 while the state House returns Sept. 26.