(CNN) — Though one of the women Ariel Castro kidnapped, raped and held against her will for 11 years told him during his sentencing hearing that his hell was “just beginning,” that may not exactly be the case.
The convicted Cleveland kidnapper pleaded guilty to 937 counts including aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape, and is headed to prison for the rest of his life — plus an additional 1,000 years.
If Castro were to be put in with the general population, prison consultant William Mulholland says, he would become a “goldfish in a piranha tank” but “eaten much slower.”
If Castro ends up in a sex offender program, however, Mulholland says, he may get a chance to “kick back, watch TV, listen to the radio, go to therapy — no job, nothing.”
JoEllen Smith, the chief of communications for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the ODRC, told HLN the department doesn’t have details about Castro’s future prison life because he’s not in its custody yet. But she was able to confirm that Castro “will not be among the general population, and that’s obviously due to the high notoriety of his case. We have to keep his safety and security in mind as well as the safety and security of our facility.”
Based on the ODRC’s policies, here’s what Castro may experience once he’s in custody.
Intake and processing
Castro, who is currently in the Cuyahoga County jail, will head first to the Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton, Ohio, to be processed, according to the county prosecutor’s office. The county sheriff’s department says the move will happen Friday afternoon.
Castro will be photographed and fingerprinted, assigned a number and given several examinations (medical, mental, dental, eye, etc.). He will be issued a standard uniform and be interviewed about his background, including social behavior, drug use and education.
The process is broken down over three days, according to the ODRC, and also includes a “barbershop-regulation” haircut, an IQ test and inmate orientation.
The reception admission procedures will allow Castro to bring along several basic items, including glasses, an address book, a watch, envelopes, pens, paper, a comb, towels, shoes and religious materials. He can also have legal documents and up to 10 family pictures.
Sex offender programs
Inmates like Castro who are identified as sex offenders are transferred to the Sex Offender Risk Reduction Center at Madison Correctional Institution in London, Ohio. This center “provides assessment and basic sex offender education services to all inmates sentenced as or determined to be a sex offender.”
Part of that education includes a 20-hour “psycho-educational regimen” that all offenders must complete. Castro would be assigned a risk level before being transferred back to his parent institution. If it’s determined he’s highly likely to re-offend, then he might be placed in one of the ODRC’s comprehensive sex offender programs, which are available at several facilities, including Chillicothe, Madison, Belmont and Grafton correctional institutions.
There is a comprehensive handbook that details all the treatments and activities of inmates placed in this program. HLN’s attempts to reach David Berenson, the director of sex offender services for the ODRC, for additional details have been unsuccessful.
Mulholland, the prison consultant, was incarcerated for more than two decades because of violent crimes and now works for free to prepare men who are headed to prison. He says that, based on his experiences in various prisons in Washington state, life is typically pretty easy for inmates in sex offender programs like these.
“All they do is watch TV all day long, sleep, nap, do whatever they want. They get their food served to them, privately,” Mulholland said. “They’re in a private unit, they all hang out together. They don’t have to do anything. All they do is see a therapist and take medicine.”
He says he’s seen inmates in sex offender programs escorted by multiple guards whenever they leave the sex offender unit and explained that they’re usually excluded from work duties to keep them away from other inmates, for safety reasons.
The goal of these programs, according to the ODRC, is to reduce “the risk of sexual reoffending, thereby enhancing public safety and future risk to victims.” There will be no future victims for Castro, however, since he has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. And in light of his sentence, he may not ultimately qualify for one of these programs. The ODRC declined to comment on Castro’s eligibility, simply stating that he hasn’t been processed yet.
Life in isolation
If Castro doesn’t end up isolated from the general population in a sex offender unit, then he’ll likely end up in protective custody, according to Mulholland.
He says Castro may go “without seeing sunlight for years,” spending 23 hours a day in his cell.
“Usually a rapist will not even come out of his cell for fear of being beat, stabbed or injured in some fashion. In Ohio state, every prisoner knows that guy’s coming,” said Mulholland, who points out the prevalence of newspapers and televisions in prisons. “He’s going to get something because his case is so well-publicized.”
Mulholland said most inmates have a low tolerance for rapists and pedophiles: “Everyone has a mom. Even though we’re criminals, we all have mothers and sisters.”
Two of the girls Castro abducted and sexually assaulted for years were underage when they were taken: Amanda Berry was 16 and Gina DeJesus was 14. Michelle Knight, the woman who says Castro beat and starved her when she would become pregnant, was 21 when she was taken.
“I’m not a monster. I’m a normal person — I’m just sick. I have an addiction just like an alcoholic has an addiction,” Castro said during his sentencing hearing Thursday, pointing the finger at childhood abuse and an addiction to masturbation and pornography.
“There is no place in this city, there is no place in this country, there is no place in this world for those who enslave others,” Judge Michael Russo told Castro after sentencing him.
“You took 11 years of my life away and I have got it back,” Knight said during the sentencing hearing. “I will overcome all this that has happened, but you will face hell for eternity. From this moment on, I will not let you define me or affect who I am. I will live on, you will die a little every day.”
While the exact details of Castro’s time behind bars may be murky at this point, Knight does have it right in one respect: Castro is expected to die while behind bars, as he’ll have to serve life without the eligibility for parole, plus an additional 1,000 years to be served after that. Castro is 53.