There's a front-pager in the NYT about a subject near and dear to my heart: castration of sex offenders. (Apparently, there is great debate raging over the Czech Republic's use of the technique.) Yeah. Yeah. I know the idea gives everyone the...wait for it...willies, but I have never been particularly moved by the most common objections.

Science and the criminal justice system suggest that there are some sexual predators--too often of the pedophiliac variety--who simply cannot be "cured" of their horrific impulses. In these cases, I don't see where allowing some of these sickos to choose between life in prison and castration, whether chemical or surgical, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. If a convicted child rapist is seriously attached to his functioning testicles, no problem: He stays locked up. But if certain offenders think it preferable to try life on the outside without being at the mercy of all that testosterone, they can go with Option B.

To those folks who whine that such ugly options don't constitute a "voluntary" choice, I say: boo fricking hoo. We're talking about dangerous predators here, not garden variety losers who like to play with themselves while cruising Barely Legal-style porn sites. If you want to argue that these criminals are mentally ill and so deserve treatment rather than punishment, fine: give them the option of castration or of spending the rest of their lives locked away in an institution. Just keep them and their raging hormones off the street.

One caveat: While a fan of voluntary castration, I am troubled by the idea of forcible castration. When it comes to controlling one's own body functions, an unpleasant choice is not the same thing as no choice. As such, I would be loath to advocate mandatory castration, except perhaps in instances where the only alternative would be execution. (But in that case, why not give the guy a choice?) The Times notes that, last year, the GOP's own Gov. Bobby Jindal signed legislation ordering the chemical castration of certain repeat offenders. (Who knew Kenneth had it in him?) I'll be interested to see how that little experiment pans out. 

My old magazine, The Washington Monthly, long ago ran a pro-castration piece by a convicted child molester called "The Case for Castration." Whatever your views on this issue, it's a gripping read.

--Michelle Cottle