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

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – A person found guilty of a sex crime against a child in Louisiana could soon be sentenced to surgical castration in addition to prison time.

Louisiana lawmakers gave final approval Monday to a bill that would allow judges to sentence someone to surgical castration if the person has been convicted of certain serious sex crimes — including rape, incest and sexual battery — against a child under 13. Several states, including Louisiana, can currently sentence such criminals to chemical castration, which uses drugs that block testosterone production to reduce sex drive. But surgical castration is a more invasive procedure.

If an offender “fails to appear or refuses” to undergo castration after a judge orders the procedure, he or she could be charged with “noncompliance” and face an additional prison sentence of three to five years, depending on the wording of the bill.

“This is a consequence,” Republican Senator Valarie Hodges said during a committee hearing on the bill in April. “It goes beyond simply detaining and then releasing.”

The bill now lands on the desk of conservative Governor Jeff Landry, who will decide whether to sign it, enact it or veto it.

There are currently 2,224 people in prison in Louisiana for sex crimes against children under the age of 13. However, if the bill becomes law, it can only be applied to people convicted of a crime committed on or after August 1 of this year.

Democratic Senator Regina Barrow, who introduced the bill, said it would be an additional punitive measure for cruel crimes. She hopes the law will serve as a deterrent to such crimes against children.

“We're talking about babies being abused by somebody,” Barrow said during a committee meeting in April. “This is inexcusable.”

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

The bill also stipulates that a medical expert must “determine whether the offender is a suitable candidate” before carrying out the procedure.

A few states — including California, Florida and Texas — have laws that allow chemical castration. However, some of those states also allow offenders to opt for the surgical procedure if they prefer. The National Conference of State Legislatures said it is not aware of any state that currently has laws like the bill proposed in Louisiana that would explicitly allow judges to order surgical castration.

The current chemical castration law in Louisiana has been in place since 2008. However, very few offenders have been punished accordingly so far. According to the authorities, they are only aware of one or two cases from 2010 to 2019, the court said.

The bill and chemical castration laws faced opposition, with opponents calling it “cruel and unusual punishment” and questioning the effectiveness of the procedure. In addition, some Louisiana lawmakers questioned whether the punishment was too harsh for someone who may have committed only a single offense.

“When I think of a child, once is too much for me,” Barrow replied.