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

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – 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.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – 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 on Monday gave final approval to a bill that would give judges the ability to sentence someone to surgical castration after the person is convicted of certain serious sex crimes — including rape, incest and molestation — against a child under 13. Several states, including Louisiana, can currently order such criminals to undergo chemical castration, which uses drugs that block testosterone production to reduce sex drive. However, surgical castration is a more invasive procedure.

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

The bill received overwhelming approval in both Republican Party-dominated chambers. The votes against the bill came mainly from Democrats, but a Democratic lawmaker approved the measure. The legislation is now on the desk of conservative Governor Jeff Landry, who will decide whether to sign or veto the bill.

Currently, 2,224 people are incarcerated in Louisiana for sex crimes against children under the age of 13. If the bill becomes law, it could only apply to those convicted of a crime that occurred on or after August 1 of this year.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Regina Barrow, has said it would be an additional step in punishing heinous crimes. She hopes the legislation will serve as a deterrent to such crimes against children.

“We’re talking about babies being abused by someone,” Barrow said at an April committee meeting. “That is inexcusable.”

Although castration is often associated with men, Barrow said the law could also be applied to women. She also emphasized that the imposition of the sentence depends on individual cases and at the discretion of the judges. The punishment is not automatic.

If an offender “fails to appear or refuses” to undergo surgical castration after a judge orders the procedure, he may be prosecuted with a “failure to comply” charge and face an additional prison sentence of three to five years, depending the wording of the bill.

The legislation also states that a medical expert must “determine whether the perpetrator is a suitable candidate” for the procedure before it is carried out.

A handful of states – including California, Florida and Texas – have passed laws allowing chemical castration, but some of those states allow offenders to opt for the surgical procedure if they wish. The National Conference of State Legislatures said it is not aware of any states that currently have laws, such as Louisiana’s proposed bill, that would specifically allow judges to impose surgical castration.

Louisiana’s current chemical castration law has been in effect since 2008, but very few offenders have received the punishment. Officials said they could think of only one or two cases from 2010 to 2019.

The chemical castration bill and bills have drawn widespread criticism, with opponents saying it is “cruel and unusual punishment” and questioning the effectiveness of the procedure. In addition, some Louisiana lawmakers have questioned whether the punishment was too harsh for someone who may have committed one offense.

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

Sara Cline, The Associated Press