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Louisiana lawmakers approve surgical castration option for those guilty of child sex crimes

Lawmakers on Monday gave final approval to the measure, which now awaits Gov. Jeff Landry's signature.
Aerial closeup of the Louisiana State Capitol Building
Posted at 4:47 PM, Jun 03, 2024

A person found guilty of a sex crime against a child in Louisiana could soon be ordered to undergo surgical castration, in addition to prison time.

Louisiana lawmakers gave final approval to a bill Monday that would allow 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 younger than 13. Several states, including Louisiana, currently can order such criminals to receive chemical castration, which uses medications that block testosterone production in order to decrease sex drive. However, surgical castration is a more invasive procedure.

If an offender “fails to appear or refuses to undergo” 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.

“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 now heads to the desk of conservative Gov. Jeff Landry, who will decide whether to sign it into law or veto it.

Currently, there are 2,224 people imprisoned in Louisiana for sex crimes against children younger than 13. However, 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.

The sponsor of the bill, Democratic state Sen. Regina Barrow, has said it would be an extra step in punishment for horrific crimes. She hopes the legislation will serve as a deterrent to such offenses against children.

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

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

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

A handful of states — including California, Florida and Texas — have laws in place allowing for chemical castration, but in some of those states offenders can opt for the surgical procedure if they prefer. The National Conference of State Legislatures said they are unaware of any states that currently have laws in place, like the bill proposed in Louisiana, that would specifically allow judges to impose surgical castration.

Louisiana's current chemical castration law has been in place since 2008, however very few offenders have had the punishment handed down to them — with officials saying from 2010 to 2019, they could only think of one or two cases.

The bill, and chemical castration bills, have received pushback, with opponents saying it is “cruel and unusual punishment” and questioning 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.