A Lobotomy For Emmett Hanger?

One of the legislative geniuses in the Virginia State Senate thinks he has found a sure-fired way to reduce the cost of dealing with violent sex offenders. Rather than spend scarce funds holding them in psychiatric hospitals, he proposes a simple and more elegant solution: castration.

Senator Emmett Hanger is all about fiscal austerity and getting tough on crime. But this proposal is simply sick. It is the equivalent of a Tea Party suggestion to reduce government waste by requiring that every third lawmaker undergo a lobotomy. Government can’t do much mischief if the governors are disabled.

It is difficult to imagine what sort of cave Senator Hanger inhabits. His repulsive and reactionary suggestion illustrates graphically just what is wrong with our sex offender laws. Does the senator really think that cutting a man’s balls off will cure a mental illness?

Twenty states and the federal government have laws permitting the civil commitment of sex offenders after the offenders have served their period of incarceration. In theory, civil commitment is reserved for violent offenders at high risk of committing another sex crime. But the sad reality is that the law fails to draw distinctions among sex offenders. We are as apt to throw the book at a rapist as we are at a young man who looks at lewd pictures of kids. We’ve created legions of disenfranchised Americans, some dangerous, most merely guilty of a libidinal error.

The cost of committing a person in a psychiatric institution is high. In Virginia, costs have increased to $24 million in 2010. Those costs were $2.7 million in 2004. Senator Hanger no doubt believes that costs can be cut by mutilating the mentally ill. I suspect he won’t worry too much about where to draw the line between the violent and the non-violent. We hate sex offenders, right?

The Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment ought to stand in the way of castration. But the current lay of the law suggests otherwise. The Supreme Court has held that civil commitment is not punishment, you see. It is a step taken in the name of public safety. Locking up a man after he has served his sentence is not an ex post facto law because the loss of liberty is a civil and collateral consequence of an offender’s status. Such is the slippery slope our courts invite us to slide down, down, down to our everlasting sorrow and shame. If castration is ordered as part of a civil process will the court conclude this not punishment?

Castration is shocking to the conscience. That a lawmaker would propose this without embarrassment is a wonder. Perhaps someone ought to determine whether Senator Hanger is playing with a full deck. Lock him up for a while to see whether he’s got all his marbles; or maybe just lobotomize this fool as a clear and present danger to human decency.

Comments: (6)

  • castration
    The fact that any self-absorbed gov officials have the audacity to spew such proposed reparation, reveals they have far too much power. Sadly, if the convicted was a gov official, or relative, he would not be considered for such mutilation. The beat goes on.
    Posted on January 29, 2011 at 4:15 am by back up
  • castration
    Posted on January 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm by Lance Martinez
  • Castration
    Just wanted to say I truly enjoy reading this blog piece. Mainly because I felt the need for validation that I am not the only one who sees how "sick" this idea really is.
    It's scary. Downright scary how easily my fellow countrymen have so easily given away their freedoms and their rights. They mistakenly believe that it's only the sex offender who's freedoms and rights have been curtailed to completely removed.
    They are in for a rude awakening.
    Where's the smelling salts when you need them.
    Posted on January 30, 2011 at 6:07 am by Jackie Sparling
  • laws citing public safety and security
    laws enacted for the security and safety of the public are to be wary of. remember, " the directorate for the protection of the german people" helped exterminate 6 million people. much harm has been done in the name of security and protection.
    Posted on January 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm by jeff
  • Eureka! Lucid Reasoning Found
    Congratulations on your compassionate insight and courage to address this subject both publicly and with reason.
    Posted on January 30, 2011 at 12:30 pm by Christopher
  • I would support a lobotomy but...
    I'd support a lobotomy for the Senator, but the only problem is someone must actually possess a working brain in order to have a lobotomy, thus the fine Senator cannot receive one.
    I would like to know the few studies on castration came from Nazi Germany or cold war nations, and the few American studies were found to be unethical and riddled with limitations.
    Posted on January 30, 2011 at 6:27 pm by oncefallendotcom

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