Man Who Mutilated Himself in Jail Thinks So, but Debate on Its Effectiveness Continues in Va., Elsewhere
By Candace Rondeaux, Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 5, 2006; Page B01
James Jenkins wanted to end it. No more fantasies. No more molesting little girls. He knew he was the only one who could stop it; he was just waiting for the right time.
The right moment arrived one night nearly three years ago when he was alone in an Accomack County, Va., jail cell. He had spent five years in a Virginia prison for sexually molesting three young girls and another 2 1/2 years for violating his parole. The next morning, a prosecutor was going to ask a judge to commit him to a state facility for high-risk sex offenders. Jenkins could think of only one way out.
He asked a jail guard for a razor. He told the guard he wanted to look nice and cleanshaven for his court hearing the next day. The guard hesitated but handed Jenkins the blade. Jenkins walked to the shower in his cell. He bit the blade out of its plastic casing and stuffed an apple in his mouth to muffle his screams. Then he castrated himself and flushed his testicles down the jail cell toilet.
Jenkins, 63, doesn't flinch when he talks about it now. "Castration has done precisely what I wanted it to do," he said. "I have not had any sexual urges or desires in over two years. My mind is finally free of the deviant sexual fantasies I used to have about young girls."
He spoke with the clinical cool of a surgeon as he tried to explain his pedophilia during a rare interview in a guarded room of the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation, the sex offender treatment center where Jenkins was sent. The Petersburg facility is part of a new way the state is trying to keep sex offenders off the streets: Identify the most dangerous before they are released from prison and ask a judge in civil court to commit them to a treatment facility even after they have completed their sentences.
Jenkins readily admits that the prospect of being confined indefinitely partly prompted his drastic action three years ago. But he also insists he did it to prevent himself from victimizing another child.
"I'm all for castration for certain sex offenders," he said. "I think it would do a lot to prevent recidivism and the amount of money we have to spend on treatment centers like the one I'm in."
The issue is less clear to lawmakers and the public.
High-profile pedophilia cases prompted a nationwide crackdown last year. And as such shows as NBC Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" illustrate how big the problem is, public outrage has caused lawmakers in Virginia and other states to try to make castration part of the solution for high-risk sex offenders.
Eight states allow the use of drugs to castrate sex offenders, including California, Florida and Texas, where surgical castration is also an option. Castration, however, is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. In Florida, for instance, judges are required to order castration for certain repeat offenders.
Although many scientists and psychologists agree that castration can dramatically lower sexual drive, there is sharp disagreement about whether it is a cure-all. Virginia officials are not convinced.
At a hearing in Accomack last week -- the second since Jenkins was committed -- Circuit Court Judge Robert B. Cromwell Jr. said he was not ready to send Jenkins back into the community. But the judge said he was also not convinced by the state's contention that castration had done little to change Jenkins
"There's got to be some point in time where people like Mr. Jenkins could be eligible for release," Cromwell said.
He said he would "seriously consider" Jenkins for conditional release when his case is reviewed again next year.
Cromwell applauded the state's efforts to exact tough punishment for sexual predators but said the civil commitment law, which Virginia began using three years ago, forces judges into territory typically reserved for psychologists and doctors.
Such cases, he said, place the courts at an unusual intersection between medicine and the law.
* * *
In surgical castration, the testes are removed through an incision in the scrotum. In chemical castration, drugs are injected to lower the testosterone level, which in turn reduces sex drive.
There is debate, however, over the effectiveness of castration. Although such drugs as Depo-Provera and Depo-Lupron can help control some sexual disorders, they may not control, for example, a violent serial rapist who targets adult women out of anger and a need for control. The drugs can also have serious side effects. And there is concern that castrated sex offenders might replenish their testosterone by injecting hormones purchased illegally or over the Internet.
This year, state Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta) floated a bill in the legislature that would have allowed sex offenders to choose to be surgically castrated in exchange for their freedom at the end of their prison sentences. Hanger withdrew the bill after questions arose about whether courts might deem castration cruel and unusual punishment. But he said the fact that sex offenders would volunteer for the procedure should allay such concerns. He hopes to introduce a revised version in the next session.
Jenkins supports Hanger's bill and said he is living proof that castration works. But experts who testified in Jenkins's hearing last week disagreed about its effectiveness.
Psychologists called by the state and Jenkins's attorney said Jenkins will be a pedophile for life. But they disagreed on whether castration, aging and sex offender treatment had reduced his sex drive enough to make him eligible for conditional release.
Mario J.P. Dennis, clinical director at the treatment center, said Jenkins had made marked progress but still needs to be confined for treatment.
"Castration does not completely erase sexual arousal or function," Dennis said. "It doesn't completely obliterate arousal, drive or the ability to commit a sex act."
Dennis Carpenter, a clinical psychologist called by the defense, disagreed. Studies have shown, he said, that castration sharply reduces the risk of repeat offenses. One Danish study suggested the rate of repeat offenses dropped from 80 percent to 2.3 percent after surgical castration.
Jenkins's "risk is low enough that he could be able to be treated in the community," Carpenter said.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Pamela A. Sargent vigorously argued that Jenkins is incurable and too dangerous to be released. "He is not ready," Sargent said. "To put him on conditional release is just too great a risk to the community."
Fred Berlin, director of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins University and a leading expert on sex offenders, said that it's an unsavory choice between indefinite confinement and voluntary castration but that castration is an effective control for some offenders.
"I think it can be helpful," said Berlin, who testified for Jenkins in 2004. "I wouldn't want to say it's a guarantee or a panacea, but there's no doubt that in sex offenders, sexual interest is greatly diminished by castration."
* * *
For years, Jenkins struggled with overwhelming guilt, he said, but couldn't stop himself.
The fantasies used to run through him like a fever. At the Chincoteague water-slide park Jenkins operated in the 1980s, he couldn't keep his eyes off the bikini-clad girls, he said in the interview.
In those moments, Jenkins was the boy of summer, not the balding middle-aged man he had become. In his mind, he was still the homecoming king, the high school football star who married a cheerleader.
He later divorced but continued to think of himself as a good father and good neighbor. He was the guy all the parents trusted with their kids. But he was lonely.
"I was depressed, and I didn't have a lady friend at the time," Jenkins said.
Eventually, he found one. On Saturday nights, they'd drive around Chincoteague in his car, listening to R&B oldies. She liked the same music he did. Otis Redding. Muddy Waters. Al Green. Sometimes they'd sing their favorite song together:
"You're 16, you're beautiful and you're mine."
She wasn't even 16. She was 13, and he knew it when he molested her. But he said he didn't think of her as a girl. He just liked the feeling he got when he was with her.
"We would go out to pizza or the movies, and I felt like I was 16 years old again," Jenkins said. "There were times when I felt like she was my peer and I was her peer. It was confusing to me."
In 1989, the girl's parents reported Jenkins to Virginia authorities after her mother found letters Jenkins had written to the girl under her mattress. But the girl denied that there had been sexual contact. Authorities dropped the case.
In 1993, authorities charged Jenkins with molesting an 8-year-old girl and her 10-year-old sister in Chincoteague. Jenkins was convicted in October 1994.
He was released on parole in 1999 but two years later was behind bars again after a 10-year-old girl accused him of fondling her at a Fourth of July picnic. He couldn't stop the fantasies.
"I felt trapped, but it was my fault," Jenkins said. "It just really hit me then. I said, 'Man, you have got a problem , and nobody is going to fix it but you."
In prison, Jenkins read all about castration. He asked his prison therapist if the procedure was available but was told it was not an option. That's when he decided to do it himself.
"The day I decided to do it, I felt the need to pray for the strength and courage to do it," Jenkins said. "I prayed all day long, and a peace came over me like I'd never known before."
* * *
When he thinks about it now, he doesn't regret his decision to castrate himself. The thing he said he is most sorry about is what he did to those girls.
"I still feel guilty about my victims, and I wonder about the trauma I have caused them," Jenkins said.
But he still can't face it. When one of his victims testified in court last week, Jenkins stared into the distance while she recounted in a shaky voice the way he made her and her sister play "Mommy and Daddy."
"I remember him telling me and my sister, 'Well, you can't tell anybody because your mommy will get hurt if you do,' " she said.
Then there were the times Jenkins made her 10-year-old sister perform oral sex on him while he drove around in his van, and the time he touched them both while he gave them a bath.
All grown up and a woman now, she glanced briefly at Jenkins. Then she started to cry like a little girl.
» » » » [Washington Post]
Europeans Debate Castration of Sex Offenders
By Dan Bilefsky, New York Times
Published: March 10, 2009
Alexandra Mlejnkova/Czech News AgencyAntonin Novak in Hradec Kralove on Feb. 20 being sentenced to life in prison for the rape and killing of Jakub Simanek, 9
PRAGUE — Pavel remembers the violent night sweats two days before the murder. He went to see a family doctor, who said they would go away. But after viewing a Bruce Lee martial arts film, he said, he felt uncontrollable sexual desires. He invited a 12-year-old neighbor home. Then he stabbed the boy repeatedly.
His psychiatrist says Pavel derived his sexual pleasure from the violence.
More than 20 years have passed. Pavel, then 18, spent seven years in prison and five years in a psychiatric institution. During his last year in prison, he asked to be surgically castrated. Having his testicles removed, he said, was like draining the gasoline from a car hard-wired to crash. A large, dough-faced man, he is sterile and has forsaken marriage, romantic relationships and sex, he said. His life revolves around a Catholic charity, where he is a gardener.
“I can finally live knowing that I am no harm to anybody,” he said during an interview at a McDonald’s here, as children played loudly nearby. “I am living a productive life. I want to tell people that there is help.”
He refused to give his last name for fear of being hounded.
Whether castration can help rehabilitate violent sex offenders has come under new scrutiny after the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee last month called surgical castration “invasive, irreversible and mutilating” and demanded that the Czech Republic stop offering the procedure to violent sex offenders. Other critics said that castration threatened to lead society down a dangerous road toward eugenics.
The Czech Republic has allowed at least 94 prisoners over the past decade to be surgically castrated. It is the only country in Europe that uses the procedure for sex offenders. Czech psychiatrists supervising the treatment — a one-hour operation that involves removal of the tissue that produces testosterone — insist that it is the most foolproof way to tame sexual urges in dangerous predators suffering from extreme sexual disorders.
Surgical castration has been a means of social control for centuries. In ancient China, eunuchs were trusted to serve the imperial family inside the palace grounds; in Italy several centuries ago, youthful male choir members were castrated to preserve their high singing voices.
These days it can be used to treat testicular cancer and some advanced cases of prostate cancer.
Now, more countries in Europe are considering requiring or allowing chemical castration for violent sex offenders. There is intense debate over whose rights take precedence: those of sex offenders, who could be subjected to a punishment that many consider cruel, or those of society, which expects protection from sexual predators.
Poland is expected to become the first nation of the European Union to give judges the right to impose chemical castration on at least some convicted pedophiles, using hormonal drugs to curb sexual appetite; the impetus for the change was the arrest of a 45-year-old man in September who had fathered two children by his young daughter. Spain, after a convicted pedophile killed a child, is considering plans to offer chemical castration.
Last year, the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, signed legislation requiring courts to order chemical castration for offenders convicted of certain sex crimes a second time.
In the Czech Republic, the issue was brought home last month when Antonin Novak, 43, was sentenced to life in prison after raping and killing Jakub Simanek, a 9-year-old boy who disappeared last May. Mr. Novak, who had served four and a half years in prison for sexual offenses in Slovakia, had been ordered to undergo outpatient treatment, but had failed to show up several months before the murder. Advocates of surgical castration argued that had he been castrated, the tragedy could have been prevented.
Hynek Blasko, Jakub’s father, expressed indignation that human rights groups were putting the rights of criminals ahead of those of victims. “My personal tragedy is that my son is in heaven and he is never coming back, and all I have left of him is 1.5 kilograms of ashes,” he said in an interview. “No one wants to touch the rights of the pedophiles, but what about the rights of a 9-year-old boy with his life ahead of him?”
Ales Butala, a Slovenian human rights lawyer who led the Council of Europe’s delegation to the Czech Republic, argued that surgical castration was unethical, because it was not medically necessary and deprived castrated men of the right to reproduce. He also challenged its effectiveness, saying that the council’s committee had discovered three cases of castrated Czech sex offenders who had gone on to commit violent crimes, including pedophilia and attempted murder.
Although the procedure is voluntary, Mr. Butala said that he believed some offenders felt they had no choice.
“Sex offenders are requesting castration in hope of getting released from a life of incarceration,” he said. “Is that really free and informed consent?”
But government health officials here and some Czech psychiatrists counter that castration can be effective and argue that by seeking to outlaw the practice, the council is putting potential victims at risk.
Dr. Martin Holly, a leading sexologist and psychiatrist who is director of the Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice in Prague, said none of the nearly 100 sex offenders who had been physically castrated had committed further offenses.
A Danish study of 900 castrated sex offenders in the 1960s suggested the rate of repeat offenses dropped after surgical castration to 2.3 percent from 80 percent.
But human rights groups say that such studies are inconclusive because they rely on self-reporting by sex offenders. Other psychiatric experts argue that sexual pathology is in the brain and cannot be cured by surgery.
Dr. Holly, who has counseled convicted sex offenders for four decades, stressed that the procedure was being allowed only for repeat violent offenders who suffered from severe sexual disorders. Moreover, he said, the procedure is undertaken only with the informed consent of the patient and with the approval of an independent committee of psychiatric and legal experts.
Jaroslav Novak, chief of urology at the Faculty Hospital Na Bulovce in Prague, said: “This is not a very common procedure. We carry it out maybe once every one to two years at most.”
Several states, including Texas, Florida and California, now allow or mandate chemical castration for certain convicted sex offenders.
Dr. Fred S. Berlin, founder of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins University, argued that chemical castration was less physically harmful than surgery and that it provided a safeguard, because a psychiatrist could inform the courts or police if the patient ordered to undergo treatment failed to show up. A surgically castrated patient, Dr. Berlin said, can order testosterone over the Internet.
For Hynek Blasko, the father of Jakub Simanek, neither form of castration is the answer. “These people must be under permanent detention where they can be monitored,” he said. “There has to be a difference between the rights of the victim and the perpetrator.”
» » » » [New York Times]
Australia considers chemical castration
November 24 2004 at 09:09AM
Sydney - Australia's most populous state New South Wales was asked on Wednesday to consider chemical castration for child sex offenders as a nationwide police crackdown continued on child pornography.
The proposal came from conservative opposition justice spokesperson Andrew Humpherson, who said child sex offenders are almost impossible to rehabilitate and chemical castration was proving an effective remedy in some European countries.
"Chemical castration is a process whereby, via injection and the application of a variety of drug alternatives, the propensity, the desire to molest, the urge to molest children in particular, can be substantially diminished," he told reporters.
He said chemical castration was reducing recidivism to as low as five percent in countries such as Denmark and Sweden.
Child sex abuse has become Australia's most talked about crime since police launched a nationwide crackdown on Internet child pornography almost two months ago, arresting hundreds of suspects, at least six of whom have committed suicide.
Teachers, clergymen, doctors, police and even a detective in a child sex squad were among those arrested in the crackdown, which is part of a global operation against child pornography linked to organised crime in eastern Europe.
In New South Wales, which includes Australia's biggest city of Sydney, almost 50 people have been charged and another 80 are under investigation.
The state accounts for 34 percent of the country's 20 million population and often leads the way in law reform.
Humpherson is a member of the Liberal-National coalition which, though in opposition in the eastern state, is leading in opinion polls ahead of an election in 2005.
He said if a convicted sex offender is to be released on parole, chemical castration should be a condition of a reduction of their maximum jail sentence.
"Their release on parole poses a threat to the community," Humpherson said.
"In those circumstances we want the government to consider chemical treatment, chemical castration as a condition of parole to protect the community and to reduce the likelihood of re-offending."
The Labour government's Justice Minister John Hatzistergos said chemical castration only treats the physical urge. "It would not resolve the mental issues that primarily drive sex offenders," he said.
» » » » [IOL]
Common Myths About Castration
The following are some baseless myths-- and refutations -- concerning this humane and effective treatment:
MYTH: castration mutilates a man's body.
FACT: An orchiectomy is a very simple surgical procedure in which a small incision is made to remove the testicles from the scrotum. The operation is far less invasive than a hysterectomy or much of the cosmetic surgery performed today. It typically is an outpatient procedure and replacing the testicles with prostheses makes the procedure virtually undetectable.
MYTH: castration is cruel and unusual punishment.
FACT: What could possibly be cruel about a treatment that allows a person to live a more normal life without the constant urge to molest children? It is unusual in the sense that it is the only permanent treatment that works with the offender.
MYTH: Castration will not be any more effective than conventional counseling.
FACT: European research over the past 30 years shows that in every single clinical study, the re-offender rate drops drastically to lo less than 5% for those who receive the treatment. It is after the surgery has been completed that counseling will be needed in order to aid the offender during the transition of changing lifestyles. Conventional counseling can be effective in conjunction with castration.
MYTH: Castration will only make the offender more violent by using other methods to molest.
FACT: Another positive aspect of castration is that it reduces not only the sexual impulse, but all aggressive traits in a person. A 1991 Czechoslovakian study of 84 castrated sex offenders revealed that only 3 men (out of 84) committed another sex offense after castration, and none were of an aggressive character.
A Danish study in the 1960s that followed 900 castrated sex offenders found that the recidivism rate dropped to 2.2%, and, similarly, none of these offenses were of an aggressive character.
MYTH: Castration is racist punishment.
FACT: Of the 11,000 identified sex offenders in Texas prisons, 45% are white; 24% are African-American and 30% are hispanic.
MYTH: The problem is between the ears, not between the thighs.
FACT: This unsupported opinion is based on the supposition that rape is all about power, domination and control without any sexual component. The clinical studies show that rape is a combination of power, domination and control along with a strong sexual impulse.
It shouldn't really matter which theory of rape is ascribed to. What is much more important is finding treatment that will protect our children.
MYTH: A civilized society cannot permit this barbaric treatment (castration).
FACT: A civilized society, if we dare call ourselves that, cannot permit the numbers of rapes that occur. A civilized society must be open to all treatments of sex offenders in order to change the unconscionable odds we have given to the innocent among us.
» » » » [Walter R. Sanchez]