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Society

Louisiana Lawmakers Approve Surgical Castration Option for Those Guilty of Sex Crimes against Kids

BATON ROUGE, La.  — Louisiana judges could order surgical castration for people convicted of sex crimes against young children under legislation approved Monday, and if Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signs it into law, the state apparently would be the first with such a punishment.

The GOP-controlled Legislature passed the bill giving judges the option to sentence someone to surgical castration after the person has been convicted of certain aggravated sex crimes — including rape, incest and molestation — against a child under 13.

A handful of states — including California, Florida and Texas — have laws in place allowing for chemical castration. In some of those states, offenders can opt for the surgical procedure if they prefer. Bu the National Conference of State Legislatures said it is unaware of any states that allow judges to impose surgical castration.

For more than 16 years, judges in Louisiana have been allowed to order those convicted of such crimes to receive chemical castration, though that punishment is rarely issued. Chemical castration uses medications that block testosterone production to decrease sex drive. Surgical castration is a much more invasive procedure.

“This is a consequence,” Republican state Sen. Valarie Hodges said during a committee hearing on the bill in April. “It’s a step over and beyond just going to jail and getting out.”

The bill received overwhelming approval in both of the GOP-dominated chambers. Votes against the bill mainly came from Democrats. However a Democratic lawmaker — state Sen. Regina Barrow — authored the legislation.

Currently, there are 2,224 people imprisoned in Louisiana for sex crimes against children younger than 13. If the bill becomes law, it can only be applied to those who have convicted a crime that occurred on or after Aug. 1 of this year.

Barrow has said it would be an extra step in punishment for horrific crimes. She hopes the legislation will serve as a deterrent.

“We are talking about babies who are being violated by somebody,” Barrow said during an April committee meeting. “That is inexcusable.”

While castration is often associated with men, Barrow said the law could be applied to women. She also stressed that imposing the punishment would be by individual cases and at the discretion of judges. The punishment is not automatic.

If an offender “fails to appear or refuses to undergo” surgical castration after a judge orders the procedure, they could be hit with “failure to comply” charge and face an additional three to five years in prison, based on the bill’s language.

The legislation also stipulates that a medical expert must “determine whether that offender is an appropriate candidate” for the procedure before it’s carried out.

Louisiana’s current chemical castration law has been in place since 2008 but officials said from 2010 to 2019, they could only find one or two cases where it was used.

The bill, and chemical castration bills, have received pushback, with opponents saying it is “cruel and unusual punishment” and questioned the effectiveness of the procedure. Additionally some Louisiana lawmakers have questioned if the punishment was too harsh for someone who may have a single offense.

“For me, when I think about a child, one time is too many,” Barrow responded.

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