“I knew Ariel Castro was going to kill himself.”
That's the first thing Bill Mulholland told me when I called. Mulholland is a prison consultant. He says he spent 21 years in state and federal facilities as a result of three assault convictions and related charges. He is the owner of The Real Prison Consultant.com where he helps people survive prison by teaching them the code or unspoken rules of prison. Bill is writing a book on prison culture and told me all about life in prison. I asked him about suicide in prison and if sex offenders were more likely to commit suicide. Here is what he said:
Mulholland: This is common. When these guys go to protective custody -- that’s when reality hits. Most of those people try to kill themselves because of peer pressure in prisons.
HLN: Before we get into the peer pressure and what his life was like in prison, how was he even able to commit suicide? He hanged himself with a bed sheet but he was in protective custody.
Mulholland: Bed sheets are used often to commit suicide. You can tie an end to air vents. A lot of cells have a metal grate in the ceiling that can be used to tie an end of the sheet, too. Most cells have to have a vent over the toilet for health regulations and that can be used. Or they can simply tie one end of the sheet to the bars of the cell themselves.
In one prison I was in, the water pressure in the toilet was so strong that it could suck a full blanket down the toilet. One guy tied a corner of the sheet into a ball and the other end around his neck. He shoved the ball end into the toilet and laid his head across the seat. He was facing up and just reached back and flushed. It was enough to strangle him to death.
Another guy shoved toilet paper down his throat and they couldn’t get it out in time.
HLN: OK. You mentioned peer pressure. What would Castro’s life be like in prison?
Mulholland: When a guy is a sex offender he is a target. Everybody wants to earn their stripes by getting him for what he did. His case was so publicized that everyone would know who he was. Anyone trying to make a name for himself in prison would be going after him. He would be known as the "guy who got Castro." He would be known to the media. There would be notoriety in it. Especially for a prisoner who is never getting out.
Here’s what he is going to go through. He is in protective custody. The intensive management unit. The "shoe." The "hole." Whatever you want to call it. That means 24 hours a day he is by himself. Pure isolation. Usually the lights stay on 24 hours a day. Maybe he has visits with a psych. But every time he is taken out of his cell and walked down the hall he is the center of attention. Everyone is yelling at him. Spitting at him as he passes their cells. Telling him how they are going to kill him. That he is a dead man as soon as he gets out of protective custody. They will yell at him how they are going to get him.
And the guards aren’t going to look out for him the same way. Think about it, you know what Castro did. And there he is standing in front of you in handcuffs. Maybe they will give him an extra shove or a bump into the wall. The cuffs will be a little too tight. You can say whatever you want to him. They will whisper to him the whole time what will happen to him when he goes back into general population.
Being a sex offender or a child molester changes it. People are in there that have done bad things. They committed crimes. But every man in life has a mom. And every time they see Castro they will relate that dude to those kids.
If he was put into general population he would be turned into a sex slave. He would be sexually abused and tortured and killed. And that is all he would have been hearing about whenever he walked by other prisoners while he was in protective custody. That was his reality now.
For weeks in protective custody all of those details would have been yelled at him whenever he was in earshot. He would have been a huge target. If he was ever told that he was going to go back into general population, those threats become his new reality and could trigger him to kill himself.
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