Virginia state Sen. Emmett Hanger is pushing a measure that would allow for the castration of sex offenders. The controversial proposal passed the Virginia General Assembly four years ago, but then-Governor Tim Kaine vetoed it.
The bill would require the state to study the use of physical castration as an alternative to civil commitment for those deemed sexually violent predators. Now, the Commonwealth pays to detain and treat sex offenders after they served their prison sentence.
Hanger acknowledged that castration isn't the answer for all offenders, but said studies have shown it to work on many. He said Virginia must come up with alternatives to civil commitment, which costs the state about $100,000 per offender each year.
"We have such need for our scarce resources and there's such a resistance to creating additional revenue to deal with core services, that spending money unnecessarily for a program like this, I think is a crime in and of itself,'' Hanger said.
Eight other states allow for some form of castration for sex offenders, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only Louisiana and Texas allow for the surgical removal of the testes. Other states opt for chemical castration through medications that reduce testosterone, which fuels a man's sex drive.
Virginia is one of 20 states that have a civil commitment program. An offender is eligible if he has committed certain sex crimes and a psychiatrist determines he has a mental abnormality that makes him likely to offend again. A judge or jury makes the final determination.
As a result, the program's budget ballooned from $2.7 million in 2004 to an expected $24 million this year.
Gov. Bob McDonnell
has proposed spending nearly $70 million over the next two years to meet the increasing demands, including opening a new facility because the 300-bed secure treatment center that opened in 2008 will be full this year.
Castration is an effective treatment when it is combined with therapy and other aspects of treatment, but it is not a cure-all, said Dr. Fred Berlin, director of the Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins University.
Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington