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.