Last Thursday, we kind of went back to the Dark Ages, when a 78-year-old Louisiana man was surgically castrated as part of a plea deal that will see him paroled after nearly 15 years in a state prison. The man, Francis Phillip Tullier, is a convicted child molester who faced “more than 6,000 counts of aggravated oral sexual battery and molestation of a juvenile” and pleaded guilty to three such counts. Tullier’s lawyer, Nathan Fischer, told the Times surgical castration was the only circumstance under which Tullier would be released from prison before his death.
In a controversial move in 2008, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed the Sex Offender Chemical Castration Bill, which authorizes the court to order the chemical castration of any person convicted of aggravated rape, forcible rape, second degree sexual battery, aggravated incest, molestation of a juvenile when the victim is under the age of 13, or an aggravated crime against nature. The bill mandates castration in the case of a second conviction in any of the above crimes. In some situations—as inTullier’s case—judges may order surgical castrations.
Though there are debates in the medical, psychiatric, and legal communities about the effectiveness and constitutionality of the practice, castration has long been considered an acceptable form of punishment for sex offenders, with some studies citing that it can lead recidivism rates for sex offenders to drop to as low as 5 percent. Castration, the belief goes, significantly suppresses the offender’s sex drive, making them less likely to commit sex crimes. But surgical castration, arguably a form of “cruel and unusual punishment,” was, for obvious reasons, abandoned in favor of chemical castration, wherein the periodic injection of some sort of weird castrating chemical is required instead.
How to treat sex offenders once they are released from prison is an interesting issue. If castration allows violent offenders to be rehabilitated and to successfully integrate into communities across the country (and not, you know, have to live in makeshift camps under a highway in Florida), then I guess I’m all for it. But I can’t help but find it the teensiest bit uncanny.