Judgement Day

“If they’d rather die then perhaps they had better do so and decrease the surplus population”

Ebenezer Scrooge


Convicted Cleveland kidnaper and torturer Ariel Castro was found dead in his prison cell recently. He hanged himself until dead, a punishment that he had undoubtedly decided to inflict on himself with no prodding from any court or judge. He was serving a sentence of life plus one thousand years for his crimes. 

Fellow mental health doc ClinkShrink published a piece about this the other day (read it here) and I feel compelled to at least add my two cents in a general way to this discussion. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

1) Those who commit heinous crimes, and are convicted of those crimes, should be punished according to the system of laws and punishments that we have established in out country to deal with such issues.

2) Inmates in prison are entitled to humane treatment. We are not, as a rule, a nation of torturers and sadists.

3) Incarcerated individuals should be kept safe, not only from others in the general population, but from themselves if they are considered potentially self destructive. 

4) No matter how good the provision of mental health services, no matter the precautions, no matter the safety procedures put in place, a person who is committed to ending his own life will find a way to do it and will be successful. 

There will be much discussion of this event, as there was of the death of Jeffrey Dahmer and other notorious prison inmates that had their time in the bright glare of the national spotlight after committing their crimes in the dank, dark recesses of their sordid worlds. Dahmer was bludgeoned to death with a broomstick and was found with massive head injuries in a pool of blood in a toilet area by the prison gym. My hunch is that, given time, Castro may have suffered the same fate, or something very similar. Even criminals have their code of ethics. Abusers and killers of women and children are not the most revered of prison occupants. 

My personal opinion? 

This man was a human being, just like me. He did some unspeakable things, and he was to spend the rest of life without the freedoms that all of us enjoy. Did he deserve that? Yes. Did he deserve to die, especially by his own hand? No. 

A very close friend and I have had several conversations about heaven, hell, limbo and purgatory. My friend believes that anyone, even my oft-used example Adolph Hitler, is allowed, even deserves the chance to work earthly things out in the afterlife, to be given the chance to repent for even the most grievous sins. 

I am not a theologian.

Whether or not Ariel Castro will get to do this and be forgiven for his decade of brutal torture and assault of three innocent women is beyond my ability to fathom. I will leave that dilemma to God, and I am very glad that I am not Him. 

I do know two things.

Our surplus population, that group of individuals who are incarcerated and maintained for years behind bars for committing crimes most of us will never understand, has been decreased by one. 

Our collective societal sense of wholesomeness and wellbeing has also been diminished, and can never be improved upon by the senseless death of one of our own, no matter how marginalized he was. 


5 thoughts on “Judgement Day

  1. Another great post! And now you’ve got me wondering, how does God judge these people who commit these heinous crimes? How does HE factor in mental illness? Are they found not guilty by reason of insanity? Because really, it’s not as important how we judge as it is how HE judges. I would love to hear Maria and Mark’s thoughts on this.


  2. Go in Peace, Ariel.

    At Rosh HaShanah services last night,the Rabbi asked congregants if there were any persons
    not listed in print for whom someone wished to say the “Mourner’s Kaddish:, the memorial prayer. . I looked at my husband and said quietly, “Ariel Castro.” He gave me his :stop kidding around: look. But I wasn’t

    How many people,live such lives, subject to no social rules, knowing
    they’ll leave no footprints and have no one to mourn them? So pained like Ariel
    they can only push and push and push the line until finally he gainis notice in the
    course of an act that horrifies us all 24/7 til the next one. The criminal now
    hears from the public his own self hated, resounding as is sounded by a shofar. He is sentenced to a mandated standard of care, like less chaotic than the life he’s known. That was Ariel’s fate, but even here,he lost, by official neglect,
    told he was too shitty to be granted the protection form himself that he’d needed/

    God will decide my fate during our 10 Jewish Days of Awe,but Ariel has clearly
    not made it into the book of 5774. For me, as I bargain through the days til Yom Kippur,
    I wonder what role I might play to let the next Ariel Castro know he matters,
    that he does not need to do harm to gain control over his distorting demons.
    Who are we to judge this man as we are examining ourselves and being judged?


  3. Greg,
    I agree. As much as he deserved to be put away for his unspeakable crimes, he did not deserve to die by his own hand. Those who do so must get to the edge of that cliff, looking at what’s in front of them then looking at what’s behind them. And after comparing the two, they decide the deep abyss in front is actually the best of both choices, being unable to face the consequences of their terrible actions.

    As to Paula’s comment…you know, no one knows the heart of another when they die. Only God can know that. I have never & will never judge someone, saying whether they will be in heaven or hell. The thief on the cross beside Jesus was part of the scum in the first century. He was ready to split hell wide open until Jesus came into his life. And that’s the most important part of this equation. Jesus came into his life. Because of that Jesus assured him that “TODAY you will be with me in paradise.” So i absolutely believe in what they call “deathbed confessions.” This thief had one. He was saved. He went to heaven that same day with Jesus. But I will also say this…if they do not repent of their horrible, terrible crimes…their sins, then they are doomed. Personally & Biblically, I do not believe in purgatory. The Bible clearly states that being absent from the body as a Christian, means being present with The Lord. For those who do not believe, it means doom. I will not list all the scripture verses here…but there are so many, guys. I too refer to Hitler when I pull out an example of someone I figure hit hell wide open. How could he not after the crimes he committed to humanity? But I too leave that judgement & punishment to my Holy Father. He is a God of justice. “And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for He is a God of justice.” Psalm 50:6,

    You didn’t think I would get through all that without at least one verse, did you! 😉



  4. Mindy

    This is one of the most beautiful and thoughtful comments I’ve had on my blogs, ever.

    Thank you so very much for being a faithful reader and for sharing these thoughts.



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