Medicalizing sexual offenses

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For more information, see: Sexual offenses.
See also: Criminalizing consensual sexual activities
See also: Child sexual abuse

Medicalizing sexual offenses is a broad term encompassing completely or partially nonjudicial actions related to actions, normally treated as crimes, which apply additional constraints on the accused. These constraints may apply even after completing a criminal sentence. In other cases, they may result in medical treatment rather than imprisonment, but with the determination for partial or full discharge made by medical authorities, sometimes with no appeal to, or oversight by, courts. Most jurisdictions have requirements to report suspected sexual abuse of children, requirements which override medical privacy law, although adults are more apt to have a choice whether to have medical information given to the police.

Medicalization can begin at trial, if charges are based on material, possibly including recovered memory, from the alleged victim's therapists, or if an uncontrollable impulse defense is raised. True mental illness would, therefore, tend to indicate that the individual indeed should become part of a medical, not a penal system. While it is not definitive, the Supreme Court of the United States explored some of these issues in Kansas v. Crane.

Other aspects include restrictions on where the offender may live or his permitted activities after completing prison sentence, restrictions generally not applied in the case of other crimes except as a conviction of parole before completion of sentence. Some treatments, such as chemical suppression of male sex hormones, or surgical orchiectomy, may be a condition of parole or post-sentence release. There may be a requirement to wear an electronic tracking device, although not necessarily what to do with the information.[1]

One concern is that while there is, indeed, a high rate of recidivism among certain subtypes of sexual offenders, the medical and social sciences cannot determine, with reasonable certainty, if an individual will repeat the crime. The issue then becomes an issue of balancing the civil rights of the individual with the safety of the community.


  1. "Sex offender kills teen while under GPS monitoring, police say", Cable News Network,