Ariel Castro, a resident of Cleveland, Ohio committed a series of kidnappings between 2002-2004. He kept three women in captivity until they managed to be freed in 2013, approximately 11 years after they had been abducted. In this paper, we will be covering how the offender, Ariel Castro, fits into the “Life Course Theory” and “Social Disorganization Theory of Crime”, which intend to seek an understanding or the emergence of criminal behavior. The “Life Course Theory” focuses on how delinquent behaviors either persist or desist throughout one’s life and how life events might encourage shifts in behavior while the “Social Disorganization Theory”, focuses on investigating how neighborhood environments contribute to criminal behavior.
Apart from that, we will also look at Amanda Berry, Castro’s second kidnapping victim, who was abducted after leaving her shift at a local Burger King the day before her seventeenth birthday. It will be discussed how Berry fits into Hans von Hentig’s “Female and Young Typology of Victims” and Mendelsohn’s “Innocent Victim” category.
The “Female” typology states that women are at risk as they are physically weaker compared to men while the “Young” typology proposes that youth are seen as vulnerable to victimization as a result of their age. Mendelsohn’s “Innocent Victim” category is applicable to victims with no responsibility for the crime. Through the analysis of these theories of crime and victim typologies we will try to understand the origin of these behaviors.
Crime is an unfortunate element of society and with the repercussions and gruesome headlines some of these acts might make, we must remember that behind those newsworthy stories lie two kinds of human beings, the offenders and the victims.
What makes and offender an “offender”? What factors, biological or environmental make them commit such hideous crimes? It is sometimes very difficult for the general public to understand why these people behave the way they do.
The offender, Ariel Castro, was born in Yauco, Puerto Rico, on July 11, 1960. After his parents divorce he moved to the mainland with his mom and siblings, ultimately settling in Cleveland, Ohio. Castro was a violent man, it was reported that he was a perpetrator of domestic violence against Grimilda Figueroa, the mother of his children, often beating her until she lost consciousness. He was arrested in 1993 on charges of domestic violence but was not indicted by a grand jury.
From 2002-2004 he engaged in a series of kidnappings, which are the focus of this paper, and was later apprehended for these on May 6th 2013. After being taken into custody, Castro’s bail was set at 8 million dollars. On June 7, Castro received a true bill of indictment with 329 counts, a true bill of indictment is the agreement of a grand jury probable cause exists to order a defendant to stand trial on the charges in the indictment (US Legal, Inc, 1997). These counts were later increased to 977 and ranged from rape to aggravated murder. At first Castro pleaded “not guilty” to the charges but later pleaded guilty to 937 of the 977, as part of a plea bargain, a negotiated agreement between a criminal defendant and a prosecutor in which the defendant agrees to plead “guilty” or “no contest” to some crimes, along with possible conditions, in return for reduction or dismissal of some of the charges or some other benefit to the defendant. (US Legal, Inc, 1997). In the end, Castro was sentenced to life in prison without parole, the release of a convicted criminal defendant after serving a portion of their sentence, upon a finding that the person is sufficiently rehabilitated and not a threat to society. (US Legal, Inc, 1997). He later died by suicide on September 3, 2013. (Markon & Wilgoren, 2013).
Castro’s preferred M.O., (modus operandi) was definitely rooted in gaining the trust of his victims so he could later kidnap them, restrain them and commence physical and sexual assaults. This implies that Castro had to be a very charming man who could easily gain the trust of his targets and lure them into his home. According to Douglas and Munn (1992), the MO is dynamic and malleable and evolves as the offender gains both experience and confidence in his/her patterns of criminal offending. In Castro’s case, his M.O. didn’t change a lot from what has been recorded but he definitely became more sophisticated when it came to keep his victims contained and not interacting with each other, so they wouldn’t gang up on him. Seeing that physical violence and sexual assault are a common theme in his crimes, it is clear that he was a man who loved to show his power over the victims.
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office conducted research on child abduction murders based on the review of over 775 cases that occurred between 1968 and 2002. The results stated that in 89% of the cases, the missing child died within 24 hours of being abducted and that the primary motive for the abductor was sexual assault. (Douglas, J. E., & Munn, C., 1992). Looking at these numbers, it is truly incredible how Castro kept not one, but three abducted women and a baby, alive while under captivity. This leads us to believe that, even though his crimes where in part related to his desire to show dominance through sexual assault, Castro’s motivation came from a much more sinister desire to have control over women.
Ariel Castro, the man behind the Cleveland kidnappings definitely fits within a few of the crime theories but, out of all of them. I believe the ones that suit him the most are: Life Course Theory and Social Disorganization Theory.
Looks at how delinquent behaviors either persist or desist throughout one’s life and how life events might encourage shifts in behavior. (Mallicoat, 2017). Ariel Castro clearly fits into this theory because he consistently persisted in delinquent behavior even before the famous kidnappings took place, which can be seen in how he abused the mother of his children, constantly kidnapped his kids and was overall reckless while working as a public-school bus driver. Another instance that could contribute to the fact that he was drawn to harming people, specifically women, could be how he held a lot of resentment towards his mother, which can be seen in one of the diary entries of Amanda Berry, one of the girls he kidnapped; He seems to go to her place a lot, which seems weird to me because he’s always telling me how much he hates her. He calls her “whore” and “bitch” and says she beat him when he was little. His mother’s violence towards him when he was little could have been the catalyst that incited him to commit these violent acts towards women throughout his young and late adulthood.
Investigates how neighborhood environments contribute to criminal behavior. (Mallicoat, 2017). According to the theory, poverty, residential mobility, ethnic heterogeneity, and weak social networks decrease a neighborhood’s capacity to control the behavior of people in public, and hence increase the likelihood of crime. (Kubrin, C. E., & Weitzer, R., 2003). Castro was born in Yauco, Puerto Rico, which is a poor township on the island. He later moved to Cleveland, Ohio with his mother but still remained living in a relatively low-income part of town. It is also recorded that Castro only went up to achieve a high-school diploma in 1979 from Lincoln-West High School in Cleveland. Social Disorganization Theory is a reflection of how crime is correlated to socioeconomic status, particularly for lower-class communities. Castro’s neighborhood was prominent in primarily Spanish speaking immigrants, Amanda Berry wrote: There are so many Spanish-speaking people here that they call it little Puerto Rico.” It is evident that Castro was always a member of the lower-class which could in fact have contributed to his criminal behavior because of the early exposure he had to crime in general.
Amanda Berry, the second girl kidnapped by Castro, was abducted April 21, 2003, a day before her 17th birthday, after Castro offered her a ride home after she had just finished her shift at Burger King. Because she was just sixteen when she was kidnapped, I believe the theories of victimization that apply to her under the Hans von Hentig’s Typology of Crime Victims are: Female and Young. Another category we will be looking into will be the Innocent Victim in Mendelsohn’s Categories of Victims.
Suggests Women are at risk as they are physically weaker compared to men. Amanda Berry clearly fits into this category seeing as she is a woman and was unable to escape her offender due to having less physical strength. This can be seen in the retelling of the events of her kidnapping: “He picks me up and throws me over his shoulder. My head is dangling down by his butt, and every part of my body hurts”. (Berry, De Jesus, Jordan, Sullivan, 2015). Amanda struggled to get free from Castro on numerous occasions but her biological status as a woman made it difficult for her to do so.
Amanda Berry definitely fits into the Young category of Hans von Hentig’s Typology of Crime Victims because she was abducted April 21, 2003, a day before her 17th birthday. I cry and cry, but he only turns up the volume on the TV, shuts off the light and walks back upstairs without a word. It’s so dark. Then I remember: It’s my birthday. (Berry, De Jesus, Jordan, Sullivan, 2015). Seeing as she was still a teenager, Amanda was vulnerable to Ariel Castro and his criminal intentions.
There is no responsibility for the crime attributed to the victim. (Mallicoat, 2017). Amanda Berry was only sixteen years old when she was abducted by Ariel Castro. There is no way that Amanda Berry was responsible of what happened to her, she was a teenager leaving her part-time job when she accepted Castro’s offer to take her home, knowing that he was the father of a girl she went to school with. There are myriad instances in conflicted societies where entirely blameless individuals and communities have violence visited upon them without any morally or politically justifiable reason. (McEvoy, K., & McConnachie, K., 2012) She was just a kid who made a bad choice by getting into a “strangers car” but that does not mean that she was an accessory for the crime committed.
After putting into perspective both the offender, Ariel Castro, and victim, Amanda Berry, we can conclude that both of these individuals fit into their respective crime and victim theories. Castro’s lower-class upbringing and bad relationship with his mother, which created an overall resentment towards women perfectly qualify him to fit in the “Life Course Theory” and “Social Disorganization Theory”. Seeing as Amanda Berry is a female, and thus was unable to overpower her abductor due to lack in physical strength and was only sixteen-years-old when she was kidnapped definitely make her fall in the female and young typologies of victims. We can try to understand the nature of crime and why the certain victims were chosen by the offenders, but the truth is that the human mind is very complex, and we are unable to be 100% accurate when it comes to pinpointing the origins of these behaviors.
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