Ohio is trying to close a dark chapter in its book, but there’s still a few pages left. Last week, Ariel Castro, a Cleveland man convicted and sentenced to life without parole plus 1000 years for the kidnapping and holding captive of three women for a decade in his home was found hung by a bed sheet in his prison cell. This has led to investigations into his death.
The coroner declared Castro dead last Tuesday evening due to hanging. Even though it is currently being considered suicide the investigation is a necessary procedure for the prison systems, and the two guards who were on duty were put on paid leave.
Dr. Brooke Wagner, from the Sociology Department at Wittenberg said that suicide occurs often in prison, especially with isolation prisoners like Castro was.
“Ohio prisons have a lower rate of suicide in the country than the national rate, but this is not an uncommon occurrence.” Wagner described suicides within prisons as “fatalistic suicides,” a term used in sociology when studying such cases.
“Fatalistic suicide is when the person has a feeling of no future, high anxiety, and can’t take the high regulation of the prison systems,” said Wagner. “It becomes what they consider a rational choice to take their life.”
Castro was in isolation and had check ups every 30 minutes but he was not on suicide watch. The New York Times reported that his psychological evaluation during the trial did not indicate any evidence of mental illness or suicidal tendencies.
“ I think he had every intention to live his life sentence; it’s why he took the plea bargain instead of the death penalty. Maybe it’s trying to find a reason for his suicide, but I think hearing what Knight said to him at the trial was a realization of what a life sentence really meant for him.”
Knight, when on the stand after hearing his sentencing said: “I spent 11 years of hell, yours is just beginning…I will live on. You will die a little every day.” Wagner believes that had he made his way into the general prison system he would have been abused by the other inmates.
While it may have seemed like a rational choice for Castro to kill himself, people across the nation and within the community are outraged, calling it cowardice. Students at Wittenberg from the Cleveland area there had similar sentiments. Gabby Griffiths, a senior from Akron, Ohio, followed the Castro case closely and agreed that it was a cowardly act. “Truthfully, I’m angry that he killed himself,” said Griffiths. Other statements on social media handles such as Twitter had people remarking that they were happy that he was dead, and that it was a blessing.
Griffiths feels that even though Castro’s house was destroyed and that he is now dead, Cleveland will still have a negative connotation. “It was horrifying to have something like this happen in basically our backyard,” said Griffiths. “People are going to remember that this happened in Cleveland for a long time, and it’s hard for people like me that live there. It’ll never quite feel the same.”
According to CNN on September 12th, the justice system is hoping to have the investigation closed by the end of the week, thus ending the long chapter of Ariel Castro’s story in Ohio.