Ariel Castro and the Quest for Justice

Image- Patrick Feller via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Ariel Castro is a criminal of the worst sort. Outside of a horror novel, you will rarely encounter the sort of demented cruelty that Castro inflicted upon his victims. In case you haven’t already read about it, Ariel Castro kidnapped, enslaved, raped, impregnated, and otherwise tortured three women in his house over the course of ten years. He chained them up, hid them, and prevented them from having any contact with the outside world. When family or friends came around looking for them, he would chat with them. He even attended memorial services held in their honor. He tortured the women by letting them watch vigils and services held on their behalf. (A full summary of Castro’s crimes and sentencing can be found here.)

Castro pled guilty to 937 charges. The sentence for his crimes is life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years. (Just in case life without parole isn’t enough, I guess?) A friend and I were discussing the verdict and Castro’s punishment, and he didn’t like the idea of the guy spending the rest of his life in prison; he felt Castro deserved death for his crimes. Why, my friend asked, should the taxpayers of the United States — taxpayers that include his victims and their families — have to pay for the upkeep of a man who has enslaved, murdered, and tortured people for the last decade?

I am the father of a little girl. I know, without a doubt, that if one of those three women had been my daughter, a life sentence in a “correctional” facility would not feel much like justice. Hearing Castro ramble at his sentencing about how the women lived with him in “harmony,” how they did not understand his addiction to pornography, how this was all the FBI’s fault, and how no one even cared enough to come and look for one of the women, was almost more than I could take as a mere bystander. I cannot imagine the emotions of these women and their families.

The government is given the sword by God to execute criminals like Ariel Castro (Romans 13:4). Castro has, after all, pled guilty to capital crimes. But even if the government should put Castro to death for his crimes, is that justice? Is it enough? Would his death bring healing to these women and their families? Would it prevent others from committing such crimes? I don’t know if anyone here can really answer these questions. And even if you’re against the death penalty, do you believe that sequestering Castro away from society until his demise is “justice”? If neither of us are satisfied, then we ought to ask “Is there such a thing as justice here, or is it only an ideal we can strive for?”

Justice here in this life is unattainable. Perhaps for petty crimes, we might see satisfaction and atonement made. Thieves can return goods, they can serve the community, and they can learn and grow. But high crimes against humanity? I think we have to do the best we can here, and leave ultimate justice to God. I, for one, rest easier knowing that there is a Judge who can mete out justice. If I did not believe this, I fear that I would despair of ever seeing it.

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