The Suicide of Ariel Castro

The Suicide of Ariel Castro

“Adios diablo, may you burn for 1,000 years, just like you were sentenced,” read a Blog posted in a Cleveland newspaper after Ariel Castro received a life sentence for kidnapping and torturing three women for a decade in his Cleveland home.

There is probably no sentence stringent enough to match the heinous crimes Castro committed. After plea-bargaining for life in prison as opposed to the death penalty, Castro decided to take his own life by hanging himself in his prison cell.

Dramatic circumstances surrounding Castro’s conviction cause one to speculate; Would this have happened if Castro was on suicide watch instead of protective custody? What would have brought justice for the three victims Castro tormented for 10 years?

One of the victims, 30-year-old Michelle Knight, who was kidnapped at the age of 20, sobbingly bore witness during her testimony stating death would have been “so much easier” for her captor.

Fate would have it that Castro was still in control of his victim’s emotions when he made the final decision about his punishment.

But did he have the final say?

Psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Resnick, director of Cuyahoga County Court Psychiatric Clinic, is skeptical about the chain of events. Resnick claims he did not detect any signs Castro was planning to commit suicide. In fact, his last evaluation before Castro took his life indicated Castro showed no signs of suicidal tendencies.

Resnick believes there are two possibilities surrounding Castro’s suicide. Either a stressful event inside the prison cell triggered Castro to end his life, or Castro was able to bluff Resnick into believing suicide was not an option. Resnick considers the likelihood of a traumatic incident prior to his death as the most probable scenario.

Could it be a coincidence that last year another inmate in the same facility committed suicide while under the same special watch Castro was on?

Under protective custody, the requirement is that inmates be checked every 30 minutes. Is 30 minutes enough time to transform a bedsheet into a hanging noose, attach it to a secure fixture and hang oneself?

Protective custody safeguards an inmate from other prisoners, and suicide watch mandates protection from harming oneself. Castro was deemed appropriate for protective custody because of his serious sex-offender status and assessment of not being a suicide threat.

Some may say Castro was a coward and took the easy way out, but there could be more to the story of Castro’s death than meets the eye.

Plea-bargaining for life in prison could have been Castro’s cowardly way of getting out of spending the rest of his days behind bars. After all, he only served 30 days of his sentence before he died. This is a small price to pay for a decade of raping and terrorizing three young women. Behind every bully lurks a coward, so this assumption could be true.

From that perception, Castro’s suicide is galling because it is an insult to justice. Castro’s suicide brings forth an elusive American prison statistic that is not well known. More inmates die by suicide than by murder, overdose, and accidents combined.

Most inmates deemed by psychological professionals as high suicide risks are nowhere near as degraded as Castro.

The main purpose of prisons is to protect the public from dangerous criminals by taking away their freedom. It gives victims a sense of justice by knowing the person responsible for their anguish is being punished. When inmates commit suicide, it is like a slap in the face to victims because it transfers power to their perpetrators, and justice is not served.

According to the Justice Department, 185 inmates in state prisons committed suicide in 2011, or 14 suicides per 100,000 inmates. People are far more likely to die of medical illnesses in state custody than anything else, with cancer and heart disease the leading causes.

In addition to state prison suicides, 310 other inmates took their own lives in local jails in 2011, which figures out to a rate of 43 suicides per 100,000 prisoners. Most of the prisoners are not raging murderers serving life sentences or on death row. Sadly, the profile that fits most behind-bars suicides is that of young male first-time offenders between 20 and 25 awaiting trial for minor substance abuse violations. Most of the time, the detainees are under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they take their own lives. Juvenile offenders detained in adult prisons are also at extremely high risk for suicide.

Taking into consideration the high rate of mental health problems within the prison population, these disturbing facts are not unsurprising. Castro’s death has prompted Ohio authorities to take a closer look at less notable suicides that have taken place inside the state’s correctional facilities.

It is unknown if Ariel’s victims, the women he held captive and tormented for a decade, feel cheated out of justice by his suicide or if the relief of knowing Castro is no longer on this earth will enable the three women to resume their lives peacefully.