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

Louisiana judges could soon have the authority to order surgical castration for individuals convicted of sex crimes against young children, following legislation passed on Monday.

If signed by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, Louisiana would become the first state to implement this form of punishment. The GOP-controlled Legislature approved the bill, which allows judges to sentence offenders to surgical castration for specific aggravated sex crimes, including rape, incest, and molestation of children under 13.

Currently, several states, such as California, Florida, and Texas, permit chemical castration, where offenders may sometimes choose surgical castration. However, the National Conference of State Legislatures notes that no states currently allow judges to mandate surgical castration.

Louisiana has permitted chemical castration for over 16 years, but this method, which uses medication to block testosterone and decrease sex drive, is rarely ordered.

“This is a consequence,” said Republican state Sen. Valarie Hodges in an April committee hearing, emphasizing that this measure goes beyond traditional imprisonment.

The bill saw strong support in both GOP-dominated chambers, with most opposition coming from Democrats, although it was introduced by Democratic state Sen. Regina Barrow.

Currently, 2,224 individuals are imprisoned in Louisiana for sex crimes against children under 13. The new law, if enacted, would apply only to crimes committed on or after August 1 of this year.

Barrow argues that the legislation serves as a deterrent and an additional step in punishing severe crimes.

“We are talking about babies who are being violated by somebody,” she stated during an April committee meeting. “That is inexcusable.”

While castration is typically associated with men, Barrow noted that the law could also apply to women. She emphasized that the punishment would be decided on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of judges and would not be automatic.

Offenders who refuse or fail to undergo the procedure after a judicial order could face additional charges and an extra three to five years in prison. The bill also requires a medical expert to determine if the offender is a suitable candidate for the procedure before it is performed.

Louisiana’s chemical castration law, in effect since 2008, has seen limited use, with only one or two cases reported between 2010 and 2019.

The legislation has faced criticism for being “cruel and unusual punishment” and questions about its effectiveness. Some lawmakers also debated whether the punishment was too harsh for first-time offenders. Barrow countered, “For me, when I think about a child, one time is too many.”