A Republican state legislator introduced a bill that calls for the chemical castration of convicted rapists in Oklahoma, the Associated Press reported. Rep. Rick West filed House Bill 2543 that would authorize the “use of certain chemical treatment” to reduce the sex drive of rapists as a condition for release.
Since Oklahoma has the highest overall Black incarceration rate in the nation, the proposed bill harkens back to a time when White law enforcement routinely use castration as a means to punish Black men.
Chemical castration, unlike the more violent procedure that involves removal of the testicles, would include the voluntary use a drug called medroxyprogesterone acetate that temporarily reduces the male sex drive. A judge could make the treatment mandatory “upon a second or subsequent conviction of a sexually violent offense,” according to the bill.
The drugs are most effective on sex offenders who want their sex drive reduced, Frank Zimring, a University of California Berkeley law professor, told the AP. Effectiveness requires the sex offender to take the drugs as prescribed. Zimring rejected the notion that this is really castration because certain dosages of the chemicals must be maintained.
Opponents of the measure call it unconstitutional.
“It’s hard to imagine this couldn’t be considered cruel or unusual,” said Allie Shinn, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma American Civil Liberties Union. “I don’t want to place too much faith in the Oklahoma Legislature to avoid blatantly unconstitutional proposals, but we’re hopeful this bill, as written, is just too extreme to move.”
At least seven other states have chemical castration on their books: California, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon and Wisconsin. California was the first to pass a chemical castration law in 1996. However, there are no statistics on its use, but the punishment is seldom carried out, according to the AP.
Castration was a favorite method of torture used during the Jim Crow era against Black men. Since racial bias is still with us, it’s not a leap to predict that these laws would be disproportionately used against Black inmates.