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Prison disagreed with him

So Ariel Castro, the guy who kidnapped and enslaved three women, killed himself in his prison cell. (Or he was murdered and the authorities are just saying he killed himself. Who knows, but let’s go with the official story for now.)

Some moments from his life:

In court:

Castro appeared to blame the victims and accused them of lying about their treatment. He went on to say that none of the women was a virgin when he abducted them, that they wanted sex and there was “harmony” in the “happy household.”

Mm. That’s why there were chains; that’s why the windows were boarded up; that’s why Amanda Berry clawed the front door partly open and screamed for help.

At home:

Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home was reconfigured to keep their whereabouts a secret, FBI agent Andrew Burke testified. The back door was outfitted with an alarm, bedspreads and curtains obscured parts of the home and a porch swing was placed in front of the stairs leading to the rooms where Castro held the women and girl hostage.

Police also testified Castro would chain the women to objects, including a support pole in his basement.

In the room where Berry and her daughter were held, the doorknob was removed, a lock was affixed to the outside and a hole was cut through the door for ventilation because the windows had been boarded up from the inside, Burke said.

Cozy.

Hospitality:

The first police officer on the scene, Barbara Johnson, recalled for the court how she and another officer heard the pitter-patter of footsteps in a dark room where Knight and DeJesus were held.

When the captive women realized they were police, Knight “literally launched herself” onto an officer, “legs, arms, just choking him. She just kept repeating, ‘You saved us! You saved us!’ ” Johnson said.

The women were described as scared, pale, malnourished and dehydrated when they were rescued. Dr. Gerald Maloney, who was in the emergency room when the victims arrived, said Knight requested that no male physicians attend to her.

Dehydrated. He didn’t even let them have enough water.

Quite an epitaph.

Comments

  1. notsont says

    I know it makes me a bad person, but the only thought that went through my head when I heard about his death was “too bad, seems a little too easy for him”.

  2. Al Dente says

    Castro was sentenced to life plus 1000 years. Since he was looking at spending the rest of his life in prison he was likely tempted into making that life short. His previous history shows he’s not one to resist temptation.

  3. thephilosophicalprimate says

    Mr. Castro was quite literally unable to take what he so willingly dished out: endless imprisonment, without hope. Without hope, and with much, much less abuse. Like all bullies — and that is essentially what he was, an ordinary bully taken to the nth degree — he was a craven, shriveled excuse for a human being in any situation where he couldn’t coerce and control those around him. It’s no surprise at all that he took the proverbial coward’s way out at the first opportunity.

  4. davehooke says

    It sounds callous because it is callous. The question is, can you (and do you want to) justify it?

  5. says

    He went on to say that none of the women was a virgin when he abducted them…

    Oh, hello slut-shaming. Fancy meeting you here.

  6. Minnow says

    “It sounds callous because it is callous. The question is, can you (and do you want to) justify it?”

    I am curious what exactly you think needs justifying? I know your comment was aimed at another person, but still. Being pleased that someone who has committed terrible crimes is dead hardly seems to me to be something that needs to be justified. Personally, I wish he were alive because I want him to suffer for a long time, that is, if anything, the more ‘callous’ idea.

  7. steve oberski says

    Retributive justice is a meme that religion exploits very well and even among those who have discarded most of the baggage of religion it still rears its ugly head, myself included.

    In my opinion, Castro should have been allowed to exercise any end of life choice he so desired just like any other human being.

    It’s interesting that many of the reasons for denying him such a choice have religious and retributive overtones such as:

    too bad, seems a little too easy for him

    he’s not one to resist temptation

    he took the proverbial coward’s way out at the first opportunity

    Really maddening that this man was allowed to die

    Similar thoughts went through my head as well when I read this article.

  8. Minnow says

    “It’s interesting that many of the reasons for denying him such a choice have religious and retributive overtones such as:”

    I don’t understand why retribution should be discounted. Castro was not like ‘any other human being’ after all, he was one who exploited other human being horribly. If the retribution helps his victims (and it often does), why not?

  9. says

    Don’t know if it’s a good thing, don’t know if it’s a bad thing, but I find I feel next to nothing about this.

    People saying they’re happy he died, people saying they wished he could have lived to suffer, I get neither.

    What I wish had been different is that none of this happened. That the women so imprisoned hadn’t been imprisoned, that Castro either hadn’t been born to do this or just hadn’t been what he was to do this, or got caught the first time he tried. And this we don’t have.

    So get to this point at all, this horse is just so very, very long out of the barn anyway. That the perpetrator died, how he did, at this point, is some kind of footnote. I can’t really muster sympathy or schadenfreude, both knowing roughly what he did, but then not even really knowing a hell of a lot of this guy’s story beyond this, either.

    I guess that coldness does maybe say one thing, insofar as I expect I’d feel sympathy for most people dying in prison, almost regardless of what they’d been convicted of. Castro’s crimes somehow break this. I find myself shrugging. So he’s dead. This development is, on top of the rest of it, neither a particularly worse nor better an ending to what was already so astronomically miserable a story.

    Again: I’m sold neither on any of this being a bad nor good thing. All I got is the observation of my reaction.

    Best that can happen from here? His victims live decent lives from hereon out. Somehow manage to get past the misery they lived, despite the odds, find some kind of beauty and pleasure in the rest of their lives on this world. And maybe that we learn something of the larger implications for the rest of the world, whatever they might be, of this thing.

  10. steve oberski says

    @Minnow

    I suspect that Castro is like a whole lot of other human beings.

    To deny this is to deny our evolutionary past where human attributes like xenophobia and violence, which now act to our detriment in modern society, allowed our primate ancestors to survive and prosper.

    Just like our more positive attributes such as empathy and altruism, we can’t just pretend that we all don’t share to a lesser or greater extent those traits that resulted in Castro doing what he did.

    It’s only through greater understanding of our true nature that we can begin to deal with the more negative aspects through culture and education.

    In my own opinion, retributive justice does nothing to increase the well being of human beings in general and the victims of Castro specifically. That it provides some vicarious gratification for bystanders like you and me does not reflect well on our motivations.

  11. Minnow says

    “we can’t just pretend that we all don’t share to a lesser or greater extent those traits that resulted in Castro doing what he did.”

    We can and I do. I see no evidence for this sort of claim and it strikes me as purely ideological. Castro made choices. Disgusting ones. I am happy to see him suffer as a consequence.

    “In my own opinion, retributive justice does nothing to increase the well being of human beings in general and the victims of Castro specifically.”

    Victims often report differently, though. We should listen to them. In a very tenuous way we are all victims of Castro, and I know that my personal well being is increased to see him suffer.

  12. says

    When Castro started to ask about seeing his daughter during his sentencing, I was worried he was going to start victimizing Amanda Berry again through the courts. That this can’t happen now is the best thing to come of this.

    As for him taking the coward’s way out, that he couldn’t take what he did to those women was the first thing I thought too. Then some people pointed out that this was a way of him taking control of the situation, and damn it, that could well be the case.

  13. karmacat says

    It is definitely human to want retributive justice. We feel sympathy for the women he tortured, so we want him to suffer. It is important to acknowledge our emotions, but it doesn’t mean we have to act on them. As AJ Milne says, his suffering doesn’t erase the women’s suffering. Castro represents an extreme of human cruelty. And certain elements of the culture contributed to his actions, such as “slut shaming,” seeing “non-virgin” women as less than other women, of view women as less than men. My conclusion, is that we all need to take responsibility in one way or another to prevent what Castro did from happening to other people, (women and men both.)

  14. steve oberski says

    @Minnow

    I suspect that Castro was happy to see his victims suffer as well.

    We can see the effects of retributive justice playing out in the middle east in countries like Syria, were sectarian violence fuelled by tribal retributive justice is resulting in the misery of millions of human beings.

    I’m sure that minority Shias feel exactly the same way as you do when they mete out justice against the majority Sunnis who respond in kind in an ever escalating cycle of internecine warfare.

    Does this increase their personal well being ?

    To the extent that we use our justice system as a tool of retribution rather than for the protection of the innocent and the rehabilitation of the guilty then we cater to our darker natures. It’s easy to destroy but to build a better system takes hard work and one of the first things we need to do is to stop catering to our destructive urges no matter how much short term gratification this provides us.

    I find it hard to distinguish between your attitude and those who revel in the rape of prisoners by other prisoners,

  15. Minnow says

    “As AJ Milne says, his suffering doesn’t erase the women’s suffering”

    But it may mitigate it, in which case why not? If we do not wish him to suffer in any way, why imprison him at all? He was hardly likely to re-offend given the peculiar nature f his crimes and the level of scrutiny he would be under.

    “I suspect that Castro was happy to see his victims suffer as well”

    I have no idea. Why would that be relevant?

  16. left0ver1under says

    What surprised me about the suicide is that prison officials didn’t anticipate a possible suicide attempt. Why was he allowed to have items in his cell (or a cell, period) that could be used in that way?

    WMDKitty — Survivor (#4) –

    Your words (and a few other posters) could be summed up as “He won’t be missed,” which is a normal and civilized attitude. There’s nothing wrong with wanting scum like Ariel Castro or Jerry Sandusky locked up permanently and the key thrown away.

    It’s far better than those who advocate torture and execution through brutal and violent means (e.g. hanging without the drop, letting other prisoners kill him). Such people exhibit many of the same behaviours as those they want to see dead.

  17. PatrickG says

    In a very tenuous way we are all victims of Castro, and I know that my personal well being is increased to see him suffer..

    Tenuous is rather strong. Try non-existent, imaginary, or fantastical.

    I’m not going to begrudge the actual victims of Castro whatever satisfaction — if any — they may find in Castro’s death. But to justify your thirst for retribution by claiming you’re a victim of Castro is eyebrow-raising, to put it mildly.

    If you get emotional satisfaction from contemplating the suffering of others (however richly “deserved”), that’s your lookout. It’s a very human thing to do, as others have noted, and I’m certainly not immune to it myself. But don’t try to dress it up as anything beyond vicarious gratification. (h/t to steve obserski for the apt turn of phrase)

  18. says

    davehooke

    It sounds callous because it is callous. The question is, can you (and do you want to) justify it?

    I’m not happy that he’s dead. I feel nothing about him.

    My givadamn broke.

  19. Lyanna says

    Retribution for this type of heinous action does increase my personal wellbeing, steve oberski. It makes me think society takes the crime seriously, because it no longer tolerates the people who perpetrate it. Without retribution, society tolerates rapists, and tolerating rapists is tolerating rape.

  20. PatrickG says

    @ Lyanna:

    Was the prison term not sufficient to indicate non-toleration? Or was death (by murder or suicide) the only anodyne?

  21. thephilosophicalprimate says

    Steve, I suspect you’re being as much contrarian as principled in this discussion thread, but your objection to retributive conceptions of justice is not entirely wrong-headed. It is, however, overly sweeping. At least in my case, it is entirely misplaced. Nothing you’ve said in this thread is relevant in any way to the sentiment I expressed. In calling him a bully and a coward, I addressed Castro’s moral character, and expressed a character judgment. That has bugger all to do with retributive justice.

    In fact, one of the aims of a legitimate, socially constructive penal system (which we do not have in this country) is that it offers those convicted of crimes the opportunity and resources to reform their character, to become better human beings. As you said, rehabilitation should be our aim, not retribution — and what is rehabilitation but character reform? But even in American prisons, for all their flaws, some people have used their time in prison to face their own past — not just their criminal actions, but the life history that led up to their criminal actions — and sought to overcome their problems and confront their guilt. In short, they’ve tried to become better human beings, tried to rehabilitate themselves. But becoming a better human being is difficult, and Castro appears to have been too much the coward to even contemplate such a struggle. Instead, he denied responsibility for his actions repeatedly, then escaped the consequences of those actions at the earliest opportunity. Thus, even the last action of his existence was morally blameworthy.

    As Hume pointed out a few centuries back (in Enquiry, Section VIII, Part II), the whole business of making moral judgments absolutely requires that people’s behavior is caused by their character. When we judge that an action was not produced by a person’s actual intentions and predispositions — for example, in a genuine accident — we don’t assign moral blame. The fact that character is itself the result of a causal chain in no way negates the possibility of making moral judgments, or sensibly using concepts such as responsibility and blame. Were there reasons why Ariel Castro was a loathsome human being? Logically and psychologically, there certainly must have been: People develop, they don’t just spring into existence wholly formed. Do the causal forces that shaped Ariel Castro into a bully, a coward, and overall vicious person (in the classical sense of vicious, as opposed to virtuous) somehow expiate his responsibility for his actions? Not in the slightest.

    Holding people responsible for their actions is not the same as retribution, and some of your arguments here seem to confuse this vital distinction. So, for that matter, do some of the other comments here. Lyanna, for example, is not really talking about retribution despite choosing to use the word, but is really talking about the social importance of holding people responsible for their actions — and rightly so.

  22. says

    But, according to some sensitive soul on Boing Boing, “in a slightly different world he could have been excellent at identifying oconogenes or an innate talent at graphene with a passion for supercapacitors.”

    And it’s so terrible that anyone expresses relief or happiness that he’s dead. Including people in the thread who may have suffered sexual violence themselves.

    I absofuckinglutely cannot stand that kind of sanctimony. Yes, there are most definitely people who’d do the world more good as fertilizer. I don’t support the death penalty, but the idea that every human being out there is a precious pearl and we are somehow bereft whenever a piece of shit like Castro dies is ludicrous.

  23. steve oberski says

    @thephilosophicalprimate

    Having been exposed to catholic dogma in my formative years, when suicide was mentioned it was always in the context of being the act of a coward (and a mortal sin to boot).

  24. PatrickG says

    @ thephilosophicalprimate:

    Holding people responsible for their actions is not the same as retribution

    How did you manage to come up with that pretentious screed while simultaneously missing the point completely? You know the post is about Castro committing suicide (or possibly being killed)? You know the comments in question are people explicitly gloating and/or regretting that he didn’t suffer more*? How, exactly, is “holding people responsible for their actions” relevant to this?

    Lyanna, for example, is not really talking about retribution despite choosing to use the word, but is really talking about the social importance of holding people responsible for their actions — and rightly so.

    Lyanna’s comment may very well have been talking about the social importance of holding people responsible for their actions. And you know, as long as we’re not advocating for murder, torture, and suffering in our penal systems, I quite agree with her.

    But Steve Oberski** was responding to minnow‘s comments. You can tell because he prefaced his comments with @ minnow. You know, the one who said (emphasis mine):

    I wish he were alive because I want him to suffer for a long time

    Holding people responsible for their own actions, eh? No, that looks like straight up vengeful retribution to me. Logically and psychologically, even! Your pretentious screed about the construction of personality and the cowardice is nice and all, but it’s utterly besides the point.

    Taking pleasure in the suffering of others isn’t “retributive justice”. It’s SADISM. And it’s one of the prime reasons our “correctional” systems are so fucked up. The fact that in this case it’s a person no one feels the slightest empathy for (I know I don’t!) doesn’t justify it.

    @ Ms. Daisy Cutter:

    Relief is quite understandable. Sadistic pleasure and wishes that he’d suffered more are morally reprehensible.

    * To the credit of many who commented such, they at least acknowledge that it’s rather an unattractive human reaction.

    ** My apologies to steve for hopping on comments directed at him. This is something I feel very strongly about, and I’m startled to see it pass with so little discussion on a site devoted to social justice.

  25. PatrickG says

    Also @ Ms. Daisy Cutter:

    Agreed, that boing boing thing is just idiotic. I don’t, personally, feel any loss at Castro’s passing. Precious pearls my ass.

  26. canikickit says

    In the US everyone has (theoretically) the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When you commit crimes as awful as Castro, then what rights should be forfeit? Liberty? What about life? What about pursuit of happiness? These are supposedly inalienable rights, however, our penal system is set up such that some, or all, of these rights are infringed upon those convicted of crimes (rightfully or wrongfully). Personally, I am in favor of depriving someone like Castro of liberty and the pursuit of happiness as “retributive justice.” My opinion on this is not fully formed, so I’d appreciate any feedback that might convince me otherwise. Also, apologies for making it US centric, though I think these principles are fairly widespread.

  27. Stacy says

    I don’t support the death penalty, but the idea that every human being out there is a precious pearl and we are somehow bereft whenever a piece of shit like Castro dies is ludicrous

    I agree with you. That “precious pearl” notion strikes me as a holdover from Christianity, with its doctrine that we each have an immortal soul which is of extreme importance and always salvageable (at least until death.)

    (And while I firmly believe in rehabilitation for those who can benefit from it, there are some people who can’t be rehabilitated. They’re broken past repair, and broken in a way that makes them extremely dangerous to others. I don’t think we should execute them–due to the possibility of error, and because we should hold ourselves to a higher standard than that of murderers–but I’ll be damned if I’ll be shamed into feeling bad when one of them croaks.)

  28. steve oberski says

    @PatrickG

    You accurately represented to intentions of my comments.

    And I will point out again that I find it difficult to distinguish between the behaviour of some of the commenters here from those who gloat over the endemic presence of rape in the prison system as just deserts for those incarcerated.

    It’s like the enlightenment never happened and nomadic, tribal goat herders somehow got Internet access. You would probably get a higher standard of behaviour from a present day Afghan warlord.

  29. Lyanna says

    PhilosophicalPrimate and PatrickG, I have a question for you both: what is the difference between retribution and holding people responsible for their actions?

  30. Lyanna says

    And PatrickG: yes, I’d consider the prison term enough to indicate non-toleration. I’m not in favor of capital punishment and consider prison to be sufficient punishment.

  31. PatrickG says

    @ Lyanna:

    Thank you for clarifying. I don’t think you and I are very far apart here, but I think a very poisonous idea was voiced in this thread and I responded more ardently than perhaps I should have.

    To answer your question:

    Holding people responsible for their actions means assessing damage done, potential for future damage, and how to prevent said future damage. In this parrticular case, Castro has obviously done great damage, has great potential for future damage (i.e. no demonstrable remorse, no indication that he even realizes what damage he’s done), and thus, restriction of his potential to do such damage (i.e. incarceration*) was definitely warranted.

    The goal: Prevent damage. Protect individuals.

    Retribution: After a person is no longer able to harm others, wish further suffering on them, either at the moment or after the fact. After preventing a person from doing further harm**, wishing for further punishment, strictly for the sake of making that person suffer.

    The goal: Hurt the Other. Torture.

    I don’t at all argue that a person like Castro should not be prevented from causing harm. What I object to — strenuously — is that because a person is The Other (i.e. ranging from (a) The Monster Who Did That to (b) That Person I Don’t Really Give A Shit About) it’s therefore A-OK to wish gratuitous harm on them simply to satisfy base emotional desires. In other words, voyeuristic sadism.

    Our system of preventing harm shouldn’t involve gratuitous, purposeless pain.

    In that light, minnnow’s comments above were reprehensible. Xe was not a “tenuous” victim. Xe had no real stake in this case. Yet, xe thought it unfortunate that Castro didn’t suffer more.

    Is the problem not obvious? I hope my position is clear.

    * It’s also worth noting that given that Castro was imprisoned for life and THEN some, any expression of desire for further harm clearly referenced Prison Harm. I completely agree with steve oberski when he says that minnow was advocating something along the lines of prison rape.

    ** Advocating further torment for prisoners directly encourages abuse. I submit the popular acceptance of prison rape as evidence. After all, they’re in prison, so they deserve it, right?

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