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Chemical castration doesn't always work
By stuff.co.nz
Published: 07/12/2011

Sex offenders undergoing "chemical castration" treatment reoffend while on the medication, a Corrections Department internal memo has revealed.

Information issued to The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act reveals how the department uses antilibidinal drugs, commonly known as chemical castration.

The Corrections Department's general manager of rehabilitation and reintegration services, Alison Thom, said antilibidinal treatment has been used by the Corrections Department for 17 years.

It was an option for sex offenders who gave informed consent and for whom the medication was considered safe. Currently there was only one prisoner receiving the treatment, she said.

An internal memorandum shows a review of overseas studies into chemical castration was undertaken in 2009 by then forensic services director David Wales after a request from former chief executive Barry Matthews.

The memo details use of the medication on sex offenders after Mr Matthews requested advice on whether it was legal to administer it in New Zealand and what its success had been locally and overseas.

Eight international studies showed the drug to be effective in reducing post-treatment recidivism, Dr Wales said. However, no research had been carried out in New Zealand. Such trials were "ethically and practically very difficult to carry out", he said.

"We have one offender on an extended supervision order who is presently on medications; notably though, he was on medication when he last offended. Another sex offender, not on extended supervision, was taking medication when he last offended."

At the time of the memo the antilibidinal drug cyproterone acetate (Androcur) was the only one Dr Wales was aware of being used on sex offenders in New Zealand.

The side effects of the drug included male breast development, weight gain, weakness, blood clots and liver damage.

"In my experience, compliance with medication is most likely in offenders whose sexual thoughts are so strong and persistent that they intrude on other thoughts and interfere extensively with many aspects of life. Not all offenders are willing to give up the pleasant aspects of their deviant fantasies however."

Though research showed the drug could reduce rates of reoffending, it did not stop it.

"Some offenders are capable of achieving sexual arousal while on medication; others are capable of engaging in sexual acts in the absence of strong arousal."

The details come after the lawyer for a child-sex killer, who received years of therapy in jail to no avail, suggested his client could be chemically or physically castrated earlier this year.

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