Sentences Inscribed on Flesh

The prospect of castration for a sex offender raises questions about when the law can invade the body

Texas District Judge Michael McSpadden has a solution for rapists: castrate them. Steven Allen Butler, an accused rapist, had an offer for Judge McSpadden: Castrate me. Last winter, while he was on probation for molesting a seven-year-old girl, Butler was arrested for the rape of a 13-year-old. In October, after McSpadden aired his views on castration in the Houston Post, Butler's attorney proposed a deal. Instead of undergoing a trial in which he faced a plea-bargained 35-year prison sentence, Butler agreed to be surgically castrated if he could go free at once on probation. McSpadden said fine.

Now Butler has a...