Surgical castration now possible for child sex offenders in Louisiana

The Angola penitentiary is one of the largest prisons in the world with more than 5,000 inmates and two death row units. (Photo by sophie ELBAZ/Sygma via Getty Images)

Surgical castration is now a possibility for a person who is found guilty of a sex crime against a child in Louisiana. 

State lawmakers apprpoved the measure 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.

A handful of states — including California, Florida and Texas — have laws in place allowing for the punishment of chemical castration. In some of those states, offenders can opt for the surgical procedure if they prefer. The National Conference of State Legislatures said it is unaware of any states that allow judges to impose surgical castration outright.

For more than 16 years, judges in Louisiana have been allowed to order those convicted of such crimes to receive chemical castration — though that punishment is rarely issued. Chemical castration uses medications that block testosterone production in order to decrease sex drive. Surgical castration is a much more invasive procedure.

"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."

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The bill received overwhelming approval in both of the GOP-dominated chambers. Votes against the bill mainly came from Democrats, however a Democratic lawmaker authored the measure. The legislation 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. 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."

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.

Louisiana's current chemical castration law has been in place since 2008, however very few offenders have had the punishment passed 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 questioned 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.