Give them enough rope
Sept. 9, 2013
by Ivan Raconteur

Corrections officials in Ohio recently announced Ariel Castro, the convicted kidnapper from Cleveland, was found dead. It is believed he committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell.

Castro was serving a life sentence (plus 1,000 years) for holding three women captive in his home for about a decade. The laundry list of charges to which he pled guilty includes kidnapping and rape.

I will not offer an opinion of Castro, or others like him. It is not worth the effort it would take to translate my comments into language suitable for printing in a community newspaper.

I can understand how Castro’s victims, and many other people, might be feeling a sense of disappointment at being deprived of the opportunity to watch him rot in prison. Some may think he was fortunate to take this easy way out, but this may not be such a bad thing.

If readers will kindly indulge me for a moment, I will set aside any philosophical, moral, or religious objections people might have to suicide.

My proposition today is made purely on the basis of practicality and economics.

It was, in fact, citizen Castro’s story that gave me the idea in the first place.

Housing prisoners for long periods of time is not very practical. It takes a lot of space and resources.

The worst offenders, such as citizen Castro, consume even more resources than the average prisoner, because corrections staff are obligated to protect these inmates from other inmates who would do them harm.

Then, we must consider the economics of the matter.

Estimates vary widely, but it seems safe to say the cost to confine a prisoner in a federal hoosegow is at least $26,000 per year.

Think about that for a moment. There are a lot of law-abiding taxpayers who don’t even make $26,000 per year, and we are paying that much just to keep these knuckleheads off the street.

There is certainly value to protecting the population from these violent felons, but it still seems a terrible waste of resources.

I believe the $26,000 figure is probably low, and some reports indicate the cost is much higher for older inmates, since they tend to have more health problems than younger people, and taxpayers may be stuck with inmates’ medical bills, as well.

Let us be very clear here; for purposes of this discussion, I am talking only about the real hard core criminals – the ones confined to maximum security facilities for heinous offenses – not just casual first-timers who are jugged for minor infractions.

My proposal is simple.

Instead of spending vast resources trying to keep these prisoners healthy to serve out long prison sentences, perhaps we could ask prison staff to look the other way for awhile. Maybe they could take some extended smoke breaks or something.

And, instead of removing everything from prison cells that the prisoners might use to harm themselves, perhaps we could issue a length of good, sturdy rope to each prisoner. While we are at it, we might think about installing a heavy-duty hook in some convenient location near the top of each cell.

I have done some research, and it is possible to buy 600 feet of 5/8-inch manila rope for only $221. This is not the highest quality rope, but it has a tensile strength of 3,960 pounds, and a working load of about 20 percent of that. I figure that should be plenty strong.

I haven’t worked it out exactly, but I suspect 600 feet would go a long way. Each prisoner would only need a short length. After all, they won’t be using it to climb mountains, and those cells are pretty small.

Prisons across the country are bursting at the seams, so I am sure we could get the price of rope down even more based on sheer volume – as long as we get someone other than the federal government to negotiate the pricing. The government doesn’t seem to get good deals on anything it buys.

I’m not suggesting we should mistreat these prisoners in any way. All I am saying is let’s give them enough rope, and then leave them alone for awhile to give them time to decide what to do with it.

If we are lucky, they might get the same idea citizen Castro did, and save taxpayers a pile of money by taking the easy way out.

By investing in a few dollars worth of rope for each prisoner, we could save hundreds of thousands of dollars on each one who decides to end his sentence the quick way.

We wouldn’t be forcing them to do anything – we would simply be providing the means and the opportunity for them to exercise their own free will – which is probably more of a courtesy than they extended to any of their victims.

It seems to me this could be a win-win situation for everyone concerned.

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