Something to chew on

This is a pretty interesting Slate article that argues that, although nobody liked Ariel Castro, we should not be rejoicing that he managed to kill himself in custody. That his death indicates some serious problems with the system that was supposed to keep him alive.

Unfortunately, much as I hate to admit it, I’m inclined to agree with them. I’m not thinking about Castro so much as other people I’ve heard about, people locked up for far lesser crimes, who were also permitted to kill themselves behind bars. The article points out that suicide is responsible for about one-third of all inmate deaths — and that’s not something anyone should be proud of.

Internet commenters can gloat that Castro’s no longer a guest of the taxpayers, but he’s also not serving his sentence. And if you want to talk about where your taxpayer money is going, you might also want to ask how it’s managing to pay for a system of “protective custody” that makes it that easy for a man to die in it.

Quite so. As for Castro himself, as the article points out:

And on NBC Wednesday, psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos said that Castro “decided his fate, something [his victims] were never ever able to do for themselves. He had ultimate control. To some extent this was in a way his last slap to their faces — ‘I’ve got this over you.'” […] Today, it appears instead that Ariel Castro got to choose a means of escape – an escape that came mere weeks after his confinement — in sharp contrast to the years of isolation his victims knew. That death suggests that a man whose entire modus operandi was about power and control got to exercise his power and control right up to his final breath. And there’s no way you can convince me that’s any kind of justice, for anybody.

Ariel Castro hangs self in prison

According to absolutely everybody (but I heard it first from Justin): Ariel Castro has done the world a favor and offed himself in his prison cell.

I cannot think of anyone in the world more friendless, and less mourned, than him. Is there anyone out there, with the possible exception of his own mother, who’s going to be sorry he did it? I’m just happy that my parents’ and siblings’ hard-earned tax dollars don’t have to go towards feeding him anymore.

The only other thing I have to say is directed at the idiot on Slate who said, “They should have saved him, or at least caught him with these staggered rounds. It takes more than 30 minutes to die from hanging, sometimes hours (unless he successfully snapped his neck or crushed the esophageal tube).”

Uh, no. It does NOT typically take more than half an hour to die from hanging; I’d wager it usually takes half that time or less. I wrote about one judicial execution where the prisoner was pronounced dead after a minute and a half; for judicial hangings, the average time is around twelve minutes, whether the person’s neck breaks or not.

Ariel Castro takes plea deal, will rot in prison for the rest of his days

Ariel Castro — I need not introduce the man — has taken a plea deal to avoid a trial and inevitable conviction and death sentence.

Castro was charged with 977 counts, including aggravated murder on suspicion of ending the pregnancy of one of his captives. Under the deal, he agreed to plead guilty to 937 counts.

[Judge Michael J.] Russo told Castro that the deal would mean he would go to prison for life, plus at least 1,000 years.

That life-plus-a-millenium will probably be spent in solitary. If he so much as sticks his nose into the general population, the other prisoners will tear him to pieces.

Castro’s family, oddly enough, seem to be decent enough folks; he’s an anomaly. I feel sorry for them — imagine finding out your son, or your brother, or your dad, is such a monster. Castro’s son Anthony gave a media interview saying Daddy deserved what he got, and he doesn’t plan to visit him in prison.

State money to help the Cleveland girls

State Rep. John Barnes Jr. (D) is sponsoring the Survivors of Abduction Act, which would provide Amanda, Gina and Michelle a minimum of $25k for each year they were held captive, plus tuition and other expenses for any public college, assuming they complete their education and decide to go. (I’m not sure if Amanda’s daughter is included in this deal.)

In contemplating the case that shocked his city, Barnes said he knew nothing policymakers did could bring back the decade or more of everyday activities Berry, DeJesus and Knight missed through their ordeal: going to the beauty shop, taking a walk, attending prom, throwing a snowball.

He settled on offering them education, health care and an annual stipend from one of the crime victims’ reparations funds overseen by Attorney General Mike DeWine. Under the bill, those payments would continue for at least as many years as the abduction survivor was held in captivity.

I think it’s an excellent idea. Most people in the comments section of the article think so too. Some of them, however, are saying taxpayers should not foot the bill for this, and that the girls should just get private donations and Ariel Castro’s assets to pay for their treatment and recovery. But let’s face it, Ariel Castro isn’t worth much, and while the amount of money raised privately thus far has been considerable, it’s not nearly enough to pay for the long-term (possibly lifelong) treatment these women will need, especially considering it has to be split four ways. Other people are saying there’s no point in paying for their treatment because they are basically lost causes and will never become productive members of society.

The idea that the girls will never become productive members of society is simply incorrect. Plenty of people who have gone through experiences like that have gone on to get an education, work, raise families and live reasonably happy lives. Elizabeth Smart is the most prominent example. That young woman is amazingly well-adjusted. Shawn Hornbeck has taken some college classes, then went on leave to take a full-time job, and plans to return to get a degree in criminal justice. Alicia Kozakiewicz, who was held in a dungeon and tortured on a live video feed for several days, is in college now. Midsi Sanchez (kidnapped by at age eight and held for three days before she escaped) struggled in adolescence and did not complete high school, but she is working and has custody of her child. I think Sabine Dardenne and Natascha Kampusch both have jobs.

Obviously their recovery will be long and it will not be easy. But even if it should turn out that these women are too traumatized to work, they can still be productive members of society. People who are classified as disabled can still contribute to the world in other ways. In my opinion, helping to pay for the girls’ recovery out of the public purse will wind up saving money in the long run.

Furthermore — I don’t know about Ohio, but in a lot of states, victims of violent crime are already entitled to restitution from a crime victims fund. The money from the fund (each state has their own, I think) comes from various sources. I know that in Virginia (the only state where I have personal experience in this matter), some of it comes from the criminals themselves; that is, part of their sentence is that they have to donate money to the fund. Some of it comes from private donations. But — I’m not sure but this seems like a good guess — I bet a lot of it comes from the state.

When I was attacked in Virginia, I received information to the affect that I could apply for restitution for all sorts of expenses that might occur as a result of the crime. I did wind up applying for some reimbursement, but not as much as I was entitled to. I only asked that they cover the lab fees for my STD testing, because I was working a horrible minimum wage job and it was something like $400 and not covered by my insurance. The crime victims fund sent the money directly to the medical lab.

I could have applied for a lot more, even for gas money going to and from medical appointments, or the cost of the clothes I was wearing that night which the police took away and never gave back. But that just seemed insignificant. I already had regular counseling appointments, so I didn’t really spend anything more on gas, and I took medication already and would have kept taking it whether I had been attacked or not, and they didn’t have to raise the dose or put me on a new medicine. My clothing — jeans and a shirt from Wal-Mart — was worth like $15 or $20 at most, and I have too many clothes anyway. I could also have applied to be reimbursed the wages I lost from missing a week of work when I had that post-traumatic stress reaction and had to spend a week recovering under careful observation. But I didn’t apply for that either.

As to whether Virginia is representative of the country as a whole, I don’t know. But I think their crime victims fund was very impressive in its offerings. I hope Ohio has something similar. And I hope Rep. Barnes’s bill comes through. If we can spend billions bombing foreign countries, we can spare a little for the unfortunate people in our own country. Especially as it’s looking like (as in the Dugard case), the police dropped the ball with this and the girls might have been rescued a lot sooner than they were.