Ariel Castro decided to take the coward’s way out on Monday, hanging himself in his cell, using a bed sheet to escape the 1,000 year sentence he received for ten years of kidnapping, raping and assaulting three women in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the story, if you’re not up on the details.
Our commentary is not on the horrendous particulars, but on the application of Justice. We’re using the upper-case J in justice for a reason. Law is one thing, usually ordained and managed by the judiciary, endorsed by voters and at least conceptually messed with by politicians on our behalf.
Justice is something else.
We have laws for just about everything from the definition of Grade A eggs to how to settle fence disputes in the country. Often there are minimum penalties, or scales of fines for everything that comes under the purview of the law. Justice tends to be a little more on the Hammurabi Code side: Eye for an Eye, an Ear for an Ear and so on. If you vandalize my car, I’d get Justice if I trashed your car to an equal amount.
However, when the Law gets involved, sometimes Justice has to go blind. We’ve moved away from Justice, in most cases for the overall good. We can imagine the specter of a malpractice suit being settled by a family member with a bricklayer’s hammer and a surgeon’s hand , under the supervision of the court and think that perhaps this might not be good. Entertaining as heck, but not really, socially, good.
Estimates of how much it costs us, as taxpayers, to keep these monsters incarcerated vary widely from $30,000 to $140,000 per year. They have to be treated with a modicum of civility, fed, housed securely, usually separate from the other prisoners, given medical care, education and at least the tiniest of steps towards rehabilitation, assuming we don’t execute them. Even then, the bar to execution is set so high, that the legal fees incurred with mandatory appeals, easily quadruple the costs borne, before we even get to the intellectual point of is state-ordered execution the best we can do?
We prefer to ignore the arguments either for or against the Death Penalty. There are sound arguments for and against it, with greater minds that ours arguing passionately on both sides. It is often too much of a Law discussion, while we are more concerned with Justice.
Justice would have seen Ariel Castro, or others of his ilk, placed in General Population, not Segregation, or a Special Handling Unit. Prison has its own version of Justice. Castro would have to endure years of abuse, not enough to kill him, but enough to make every moment of every day and every night a continuous horror of constant violation in every imaginable and several unimaginable ways. Then, after a few years he would likely die at the brutal hands of an inmate with nothing to lose and nothing to do on a Tuesday evening except beat him slowly to death with his fists and boots over several hours.
That of course would have been outside the law, not permissible, forbidden. Illegal.
But it would have been Justice.