Two prison guards have been suspended after a report from the Ohio prisons department, which says Cleveland kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro may not have intended to commit suicide. Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports.
Ariel Castro was serving life plus a thousand years for holding three Cleveland women hostage in his home for a decade, repeatedly raping them and fathering a child by one of them. The 53 year old was found dead in his cell September 3 with a sheet wrapped around his neck, and his pants and underwear around his ankles. A report from the Ohio prisons department says it’s possible he was attempting auto-erotic asphyxiation – an act by which people achieve sexual satisfaction by briefly choking themselves into unconsciousness. Officials say no suicide note was found, and multiple evaluations of Castro did not find a tendency toward suicide. Prisons department spokesperson JoEllen Smith says the report makes no final conclusion on that. But she says two independent national corrections experts are reviewing the state’s suicide prevention policies after Castro’s death and the apparent suicide of Billy Slagle, just three days before his scheduled execution in August.
“The review will not just focus on the recent high profile suicides, but will focus on suicide prevention policies as a whole, and the review will look at the circumstances surrounding each suicide, including the one of Ariel Castro, and it will go back for two years during that review.”
Smith says two corrections officers have also been suspended – the report concludes that they didn’t do required checks on Castro, and that they falsified logs to show they had. Tim Shafer with the union that represents guards in Ohio’s prisons disputes the report, which he says jumps to conclusions.
“We certainly are going to stand behind our correction officers. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure they are treated fair and not continually scape goated, as the department seems to like to do.”
Shafer says staff levels have been cut while overcrowding continues, and says that the Orient Correctional Facility is one of the most packed prisons in the state. The report has been turned over to the Ohio Highway Patrol for further investigation.