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But Berlin said there is no reason to subject offenders to the trauma of surgery when chemical castration accomplishes the same goal.

“It shouldn’t simply be a rush to judgment and certainly shouldn’t be done for punitive reasons with the idea that, ‘We’re going to castrate the bums,’” he said.

Mary Devoy, founder of Reform Sex Offender Laws of Virginia, called Hanger’s proposal “a great bill with one shocking flaw.”

“When abuse and mutilation of a human being is presented as an acceptable alternative to responsible treatment and housing for those deemed as sexually violent predators there exists a fault of reason,” she said.

Devoy supports the part of Hanger’s bill that also requires the state to examine the criteria for commitment and housing options for those released from the program. Currently, there are no halfway houses in Virginia that will take in these sex offenders, and officials will not allow offenders to be released unless they have family or friends living in Virginia to chaperone them.

Dr. Steven Wolf, director of the state’s Office of Sexually Violent Predator Services, estimates at least 25 offenders could be released and monitored in the community if they had suitable housing. The cost would be about $21,000 a year for each offender, or about a fourth of holding someone in the psychiatric facility.

Some legislators balk at releasing offenders for fear they will commit another crime, but Hanger said there must be a balance between keeping the public safe and breaking the state’s bank.

“We’re going to have to establish a policy where we punish them, we treat them the best we can, but it’s simply inappropriate policy to put them in an expensive treatment program that doesn’t work and just keep them there needlessly,” he said. “I think we’re going to have to get a happy medium as far as public safety versus the cost.”