Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Death of Ariel Castro and Prisoner Assisted Suicide

Trigger Warning:  Suicide

Let's start wading back into the blogging waters with the subject of suicide.  Since I have recently experienced a situation involving suicide, I feel it is only appropriate to provide a trigger warning first.  This post is not intended to be about the subject of suicide in general, especially as it pertains to mental health issues and those struggling with other issues where counseling is probably the best course of action.  This post is going to be more on the subject of suicide/death penalty, and the actions taken by law enforcement that results in the death of a suspect.

My first reaction to seeing the news on the death of Ariel Castro was pretty much along the lines of good riddance.  I am in no way saddened by his death.  I even commented on a friend's Facebook post that I doubt law enforcement officials did much to make sure materials were not available to him.  Crime and death is always a tricky minefield to navigate, so let's step with care and see where it takes us.

There have been several recent, high profile incidents in the last year with respect to criminals being killed (or killing themselves) prior to being taken into custody.  I'm going to dispense with the alleged part of this since these are cases where the person was clearly guilty of committing a crime.  Two recent examples are the Tsarnaev brothers of Boston Marathon fame and the former LA Police Officer that was the subject of an intense manhunt in and around the LA area.  His name escapes me and is not relevant.  The bottom line is that I have no issue in either case with the criminal being killed in the process of searching for them and barricading themselves and fighting back.  I simply have no moral dilemma on this matter.  They clearly chose a path of resistance and have shown themselves to lack the necessary moral compass for me to consider having any compassion for them.  Good riddance and I won't lose any sleep over their passing.  I'm not even going to lose sleep over the fact that we may not know their motivations for their crimes, although in this case, I think those were clear.  The acts that were committed by the individuals in these two circumstances clearly have no basis in rational thought and if there is one thing I've learned over the years, trying to apply a rational reason for an irrational behavior or act isn't going to get you anywhere.

So, Ariel Castro killed himself.  I'm not sure we are going to know why, and I don't think it matters.  Maybe he had a change in conscience and couldn't live with his actions.  Maybe he couldn't stand the thought of living the rest of his live in conditions that were probably far better than what he subjected his victims to.

There are thousands of people in jail for life without parole and/or on death row.  It is routine to see a court order a prisoner be placed on suicide watch.  What if we abolished the death penalty and commuted all death sentences to life without parole, then offered an assisted suicide option to prisoners?  Would this be morally wrong?  Is it a better solution than an explicit death penalty?  Should the victims have a say in whether or not the criminal can make such a choice?  I don't know.

I would imagine that there are plenty of prisoners sentenced to life that would take the option if it was administered in much the same way the death penalty is (perhaps via lethal injection), but without all the creepy stagecraft and allowing victims to watch or observe.

For now, I simply pose the questions.  I'm not sure what my answers would be to those questions, but I am leaning toward being in favor of what I guess would be called prisoner assisted suicide.

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