Kaine Vetoes Bill To Study Castration

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

RICHMOND, April 10 -- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have required state agencies to study whether Virginia should start castrating violent sex offenders instead of confining them, some for the rest of their lives.

The General Assembly, hoping to reduce the costs of housing the state's most dangerous sex offenders in prison or treatment facilities, overwhelmingly supported having state officials study whether criminals should have the option of "physical castration" in exchange for being released.

Kaine (D) vetoed the bill because, he said, he thinks health professionals, not legislators, are the most qualified people to determine how to treat sex offenders, some of whom might be mentally ill.

"This bill was overly prescriptive of matters best left to the professionals in our state mental health agency," Kaine said.

Also Tuesday, Kaine, as expected, vetoed a bill that would have eliminated nonsmoking areas in restaurants that posted "smoking permitted" signs at the front door. The governor plans to continue pushing for a total ban on smoking in restaurants.

Kaine's decision on the sex offender bill, however, put him in the midst of a national debate over the best way to deal with rapists, child molesters and other sexual predators.

Virginia is one of 17 states with a civil commitment law that calls for sex offenders who are deemed too dangerous to be released to be confined to a treatment center after they have served their prison sentences.

But the costs are high, prompting Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta) to develop the alternative of removing testicles.

"It is going to be tremendously costly to taxpayers if we just continue to park [offenders] in a treatment facility that is not effective when there is an effective remedy for many of them," Hanger said.

Hanger's bill, which the House and Senate passed overwhelmingly, calls on the attorney general's office and the state mental health agency to explore the use of physical castration.

After the bill was approved, Kaine proposed amending it by striking all references to castration. He suggested that the state "study a full range of options" to help sex offenders gain release from confinement without endangering the public.

Last week, when legislators returned to Richmond to consider Kaine's amendments, the Senate voted to accept the governor's suggestions. But the House voted 63 to 32 to reject them.

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