Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro has been sentenced to life in prison for abducting, raping and holding captive three women for as long as 11 years, and murder for forcing one of the women to abort her pregnancy.

Judge Michael Russo in Ohio imposed the prison sentence after an emotional court hearing on Thursday at which one of Castro's victims, Michelle Knight, 32, said the former school bus driver put her through a life of hell.

"I served 11 years of hell. Now your hell is just beginning," Knight said of Castro in a statement read to the court.

Castro pleaded guilty last week to hundreds of criminal charges to avoid the possibility of the death penalty.

Wearing leg shackles and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, Castro listened to her testimony without expression.

Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23 and Knight, all went missing from the west side of Cleveland between 2002 and 2004.

They were discovered on May 6 after neighbours heard Berry's cries for help from Castro's home.

Castro admitted at the hearing that he was a sick man but said he is not the monster described by prosecutors.

Castro delivered a rambling statement to the court, saying that he made no excuses for his behaviour, which he said was "wrong”.

Source: Reuters