Behind Bars

Ariel Castro’s Victim Fantasy—and Why Prison Will Make It Worse

His victim complex will only get worse in the clink, writes Mansfield Frazier.

Tony Dejak/AP

Hitler didn’t think he was a monster. Neither did Anthony Sowell, Ted Bundy, or Jeffery Dahmer. There’s strong evidence that the human mind is not capable of viewing the self in such a manner—in their minds, they were (or are) simply misunderstood.

Ariel Castro proved the truthfulness of that dictum Thursday in the rambling statement he made as he stood before the bar of justice to receive a sentence of life in jail plus 1,000 years. Castro blamed his terrible actions on practically everything save for own mind: the supposed fact that he was sexually abused as a child, the FBI for not finding the girls more easily, even the victims themselves for getting in his car. He wanted the entire world to know that he isn’t really a bad person. He posited that maybe it was his addiction to pornography that led him down this dark road—failing to comprehend that every alcoholic started off drinking milk.

Over and over again in the four-hour sentencing, Castro attempted to play the victim card, but Judge Michael Russo wasn’t going for it; whatever the length of the sentences he handed down, the judge said, it would not in any way be in proportion to what he did to the three women.

Michelle Knight, the only victim to attend the sentencing, related that Castro would go to church and then return home and torture his victims, who Castro had suggested were not captives at all but were in the house of their own free will. The only time Castro was brought close to tears was when he had to sign over the deed to his house of horrors. Why? Because he has so many fond memories of the two-story dungeon.

While Castro had, on virtually all other court appearances, kept his head down and his eyes focused on the floor, on sentencing day another personality emerged—a combative man who had the temerity to state that one of his captives, Amanda Berry, willingly got into his vehicle, and that his captives were the ones who asked him to engage in sexual congress, not the other way around. He seemed oblivious to the fact that that statement alone will assure that he occupies a special rung on the ladder that reaches to the lower reaches of hell.

If it wasn’t for the enormity of the actions he’s previously pleaded guilty to, Castro’s objections to what he felt was a mischaracterization of his work record as a bus driver by the judge would be laughable. This is a man who will never again see the light of day and in all probability will spend many years in solitary confinement, since prison officials are not going to risk placing him in general population—not even in one of the facilities set aside for sex offenders. Any number of prisoners already doing life—so what do they have to lose?—would kill him in a heartbeat due to his notoriety simply to raise their own creds. Yet, Castro’s concern is about how history will view his driving skills. On that one, words fail.

Castro also was quick to point out to the judge that he had not pleaded guilty to murder (the county prosecutor had threatened to seek the death penalty for causing one of the women to abort on two occasions). Indeed, that he’s just your everyday, garden-variety kidnapper and one not prone to violence.

When the judge made a statement regarding the violence Castro’s daughter witnessed in the house where he kept the women captive, he was quick to point out that she couldn’t have seen any violence, since none ever occurred. It’s clear that in his mind this was a very gentle and loving captivity.

He also took pains to again blame his victims by making the outlandish claim—the validity of which will never be known—that the women he held captives for a decade were not virgins before they entered his home, that each had had multiple sexual partners before he kidnapped them ... as though, if he had found out they were virgins, he would have let them go.

But in the end Judge Russo summed it up best: there is no place in this country where such behavior is ever acceptable, and he concluded by wishing the monster peace. But peace will elude Castro, so twisted is his mind that what he did really wasn’t all that wrong. He’ll pace his cell day in and day out, caught up in the prison game of playing the victim.

His personal trope will turn into one of a person who committed a few relatively insignificant discretions, but was overly and harshly punished by the brutal criminal-justice system.

In point of fact, our criminal justice system is far too often overly harsh, which allows miscreants to apply that circumstance to their own case and situation. But in this case the system was exact and precise in the punishment meted out—he deserves every one of those 1,000 years.

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Castro, as monsters are wont to do, will no doubt pace his place of confinement, replaying over and over again in his mind how he was wronged. That’s what monsters, upon their capture, always end up doing. The only consolation we can hope for is that this particular monster's twisted and evil thoughts will eventually leave him mad as a hatter ... and all alone in a single padded cell playing handball with his own shit.