Guam’s Chemical Castration: A Just Punishment?
Recently, Guam’s Legislature passed a bill 8-7 requiring the chemical castration of convicted sex offenders before being released on parole. The Chemical Castration for Sex Offenders is a 48-month pilot program allowing for convicted sex offenders and pedophiles scheduled to be released in the next six months to undergo the castration process one week before their release, on the prisoner’s dime. These prisoners will then be monitored for progress through the remainder of the program.
This bill was passed in response to Guam’s growing rape problem. The territory has an abnormally high rate of recorded rapes per year (almost 64.2 recorded cases for every 100,000 people last year, over twice the U.S. national average). Many supporters of the bill argue that these convicted offenders are mentally ill and not expected to recover from their condition, which would inevitably lead to the repetition of a crime similar to the one that led to their convictions. The treatment would lower the offenders’ sex drive, and while not completely eliminating the problem, would mitigate the number of pregnancies that result from the assault.
However, many senators have raised concerns regarding the new bill. While there is universal acknowledgement that the statistics in Guam are startling and must be addressed, there is dissent amongst those who believe that forcing prisoners to undergo this chemical treatment is a violation of fundamental human rights. Legally allowing the government to take away citizens’ ability to reproduce is an encroachment on civil liberties and may set a precedent for the future. Senator Mary Torres stated that “What we’re doing is imposing on their civil liberties. The judicial system allows for people to rehabilitiate.” Torres voiced her concerns that the bill was too vague, particularly in regards to the duration of the 48-month pilot period and criteria that would deem success. Although her push to send the bill back to the committee level was voted down, Senator Blas amended the bill in accordance with Torres’ concerns.
The issue at hand juxtaposes the territory’s need to reduce the occurrence of sexual violence with a human rights’ issue. Many fear that this eye-for-an-eye approach (stripping those who violate others’ human rights by removing their own in turn) sets a dangerous precedent by which one may argue that not all citizens are entitled to their civil liberties.