The following article appeared in this week’s Broward/Palm Beach New Times.
In Florida, castration is an acceptable form of sex offender management, and that is separate from the punitive sentence imposed.
Florida Judge Denies Sex Offender’s Request to Be Physically Castrated
Lester Leroy Williams is serving ten years in prison for sexually battering a child. Back in 2008, he was also sentenced to 4.5 years of probation. Recently, the 35-year-old Williams made a bizarre request: He wants the state to physically castrate him.In a letter Williams wrote at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, he asked Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Hale Stancil to modify his sentence to include castration at the expense of the state.
But Stancil denied the unusual request this past Tuesday, stating his court didn’t have jurisdiction to rule over the case.
“In 32 years, I have never had this request before,” said Stancil, who spoke about the case for the first time to New Times. “I know there is chemical castration, but I’ve never had an inmate ask to be physically castrated before. I don’t think I have authority as a judge to order such a thing.”
The story was first reported in the Ocala Star Banner. Florida already allows certain sex offenders to receive medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) treatment as part of their rehabilitation. MPA, an artificial hormone, is normally used to treat symptoms of menopause in women, but when used by men, it decreases testosterone to pre-puberty levels.MPA has been used on sex offenders for years as a way of reducing the chances of recidivism by diminishing the sexual urges of men who have long histories of committing sex crimes.
According to Florida law, courts must sentence repeat offenders of sexual battery to MPA treatment but may choose to administer it to first-time offenders. The treatment does not replace or reduce any other penalty the court could impose, and the courts can order the treatment to last up to life.
The Florida Department of Corrections must begin MPA treatment one week before an incarcerated sex offender is released. The consequences for not going through with the MPA treatment are severe for offenders — a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.
The law stipulates though that instead of undergoing the chemical form of castration, sex offenders may — of their own volition– ask a court for physical castration, which is what Williams has done. Though the legal leeway seems to exist, it is rarely chosen — Williams may be the first in Florida to request it even though he isn’t even required to have MPA treatment.
“Sex offenders are wretched,” said Maryam Sweirki, 25, a Miami advocate for victims of sexual assault. “If he can’t handle his penis, then I’m for his decision to take his weapon away.”
However, critics of castration believe it to be a cruel and unusual punishment that violates human and reproductive rights; with other critics arguing the law that allows for MPA castration, though it applies to both genders, is unequal in punishment because it has a greater impact on males. Some of the side-effects related to the drug (besides decreased sexual urges) are: a loss of body hair, hot and cold flashes, impotence, depression, thrombosis, and weight gain.
Though it has been shown to decrease the number of reoffenders, some opponents further argue that castration isn’t a panacea for all sex offenders because some of them are motivated to sexually abuse because of intense feelings of hatred and hostility, rather than sexual desire.
As it stands, the laws regarding castration apply to all convicted sex offenders across the state of Florida. Though Williams will not be physically castrated for the time being, if he keeps requesting it and appeals Stancil’s decision, he may get his wish.