SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - The debate over chemical castration of sex offenders is back in the public eye following the murders of Amber Dubois and Chelsea King. In fact, California already has a law on the books that mandates chemical castration of certain offenders.
In 1996, Gov. Pete Wilson signed into law a bill that mandated chemical castration of repeat sex offenders in California. The law says, in part:
"Any person guilty of a second conviction of any (forcible sex) offense… where the victim has not attained 13 years of age, shall, upon parole, undergo (chemical castration)."
The term "chemical castration" is actually a misnomer, because the offender is not physically castrated. Instead, he receives monthly injections of the same hormone women take for birth control -- Depo-Provera -- which lowers testosterone levels and sex drive.
Psychiatrist Michael Lardon says it can be effective for some sex offenders.
"Sometimes we'll find individuals with very high testosterone levels and they don't know how to control their sex drive. That's the group that chemical castration is effective in decreasing recidivism and re-offense," Dr. Lardon said.
By law, the Department of Corrections is supposed to administer chemical castration of sex offenders. A spokesperson told News 8 she has no information showing the program is actually being implemented on a widespread basis. Doctor Lardon says that's a good thing.
"When we make some broad law that says everybody that has committed any level of pedophilia is automatically chemically castrated, we start to move into an era of Nazism," Dr. Lardon said.
The hormones can also have serious side effects, like bone loss or liver damage.
"If you look at 100 sexual offenders, it's only a very small percentage that chemical castration is really effective," Dr. Lardon said.
Chemical castration is not permanent. Once the injections stop, testosterone levels go back up, and the offender's sex drive returns.