HARRISBURG, Pa. - Jerry Sandusky, the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach, will be sentenced Tuesday for sexually abusing 10 boys in a scandal that rocked the university and brought down coach Joe Paterno. Sandusky is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.
According to Target 11’s Rick Earle, some of the victims are expected to speak at Tuesday’s sentencing. Earle said he also expects Sandusky will read a statement.
Because of who he is and what he's done, Sandusky could be in particular danger of sexual assault when he is sent off to prison this week.
With thousands of inmates raped behind bars in the U.S. each year, statistics compiled by the federal government show that sex offenders are roughly two to four times more likely than other inmates to fall victim.
It's entirely possible that he will serve his time without incident. His lawyer, Joe Amendola, said he expects Sandusky will be housed with nonviolent offenders at a minimum-security prison, and the Pennsylvania Corrections Department said it is committed to the safety of all inmates, though it would not comment on what it plans to do to protect Sandusky.
“Jerry always said his mistake was using bad judgement and doing some things that led up to the accusations, like showering with kids. He said he could have realized that that was not the thing to do, but he has always and still maintains his innocence,” Amendola said Monday.
But it's also true that child molesters are reviled inside prison walls just as they are on the outside, and are often subjected to physical and verbal abuse, including sexual assault. Given the horrific nature of Sandusky's crimes, will the public care what happens to him in prison?
"The Sandusky case is one of those moments when our core beliefs are really tested," said Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, a group that fights prison rape. "This is a moment when it's especially crucial to recognize that nobody ever deserves to be raped. No matter who you are, sexual violence and rape is wrong, it's a crime, and it is something we have to fight."
The U.S. corrections industry has long struggled with sexual violence.
In 2008, more than 200,000 inmates in American prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers were victims of sexual abuse, according to the Justice Department. Male sex offenders were among those at highest risk: Nearly 14 percent reported having been sexually assaulted at least once while incarcerated.
Yet experts say rape isn't an unavoidable consequence of prison life. Justice Department statistics show wide variability in rates of sexual abuse across prisons and jails. Wardens who are committed to ending sexual violence, establishing clear policies against abuse and holding their staffs accountable are likely to see fewer problems.
"It's all about management tone and style and leadership at the top. If you hear about abuse and sort of roll your eyes and look the other way, that sends a signal. If you tell the staff, 'I want to get to the bottom of this,' that sends a signal," said Jamie Fellner, a prisons expert at Human Rights Watch.
In some ways, Sandusky, who has been held in isolation in a county jail since he was found guilty in June, is not a prime target for assault. Inmates who are young and small in stature are more likely to be sexually victimized; Sandusky is a senior citizen with an imposing frame. Other inmates at high risk include gay men, those who have been previously victimized and those seen as timid or feminine.
A convicted sex offender who spent 10 years in prison and now works with other released sex offenders through the Pennsylvania Prison Society said he believes Sandusky's chances of assault are low.
"Are people going to bother him? Yeah, but a lot of it's going to be verbal harassment — it's not going to be physical," said the 52-year-old man from the Philadelphia suburbs, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the stigma attached to sex offenses. "Because again, he's an old guy; people aren't into that. The verbal abuse is probably going to be significant. He's going to have to have a thick skin."
Lockups in Pennsylvania and across the nation are under a federal mandate to curb sexual abuse.
The rules, which took effect in August under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, require screening to identify inmates at greater risk of sexual assault — and those more likely to sexually offend — with an eye toward keeping them apart in housing and work assignments.
Prisons must also offer at least two means of reporting abuse, preserve evidence, ban retaliation against whistle-blowers, keep juvenile offenders away from adult inmates, and devise plans for adequate staffing and video monitoring. The presumptive punishment for any staffer found to have sexually abused an inmate is firing.
"You had corrections officials saying it's not so bad, it's not so bad, it's not so bad, and then you had the data saying it IS so bad, it is a problem, it is prevalent," said Fellner, who sat on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, the panel charged by Congress with devising the new standards. "I think at this point, everybody understands this is serious."
Pennsylvania's policy for preventing sexual abuse dates to 2004. New inmates must be screened, and anyone determined to be at greater risk of sexual victimization is supposed to get his or her own cell, or be placed in protective custody or in a special unit for inmates in danger. Pennsylvania prisons hold about 6,800 sex offenders.
"Inmates and their families should know that we do our utmost to provide for inmate safety," said Corrections Department spokeswoman Susan McNaughton.
But a scandal unfolding at the state prison in Pittsburgh shows that any policy is only as good as the people enforcing it. And prisons have a long way to go in that regard. The national Justice Department survey found that nearly as many inmates were victimized by prison staff as by fellow inmates.
In the Pennsylvania case, prosecutors and lawsuits allege systematic abuse of inmates serving time for sex crimes against children. The suspected ringleader, veteran guard Harry Nicoletti, faces 89 criminal counts after a grand jury concluded he raped and beat inmates, directed other prisoners to soil the food and bedding of his targets, and committed other abuses while working in the prison's F Block, for new inmates.
Nicoletti, 60, and three other guards charged in the case assert they did nothing wrong and accuse the inmates of lying. The defendants are awaiting trial.
The Corrections Department is compiling data on sexual assault in its prisons and has hired a contractor to study conditions behind bars.
Amendola, Sandusky's attorney, said he hopes his client won't become a statistic.
"I suspect they're going to take precautions against that," he said.
Sandusky will walk into state prison with little more than a watch and wedding band. He'll be able to work a 30-hour week to make a few dollars. He'll be able to watch Penn State football but not violent movies.
Even Sandusky's own attorney believes that whatever sentence he gets, at age 68 Sandusky will likely live out his days inside a state prison. Prison officials, written policies and former offenders provided a detailed look to The Associated Press about the regimented life behind bars that Sandusky faces.
Sandusky has been housed in isolation inside the Centre County Correctional Facility in Bellefonte since his conviction in June on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, and he has spent his days reading and writing, preparing a statement for sentencing and working out twice a day, defense attorney Joe Amendola said.
"Jerry is a very likable guy — he gets along with everybody," Amendola said last week, as he worked with Sandusky to help get his affairs in order, including a power of attorney and updated will. "He's a model inmate. He doesn't cause problems, he's sociable, he's pleasant."
Assuming Judge John Cleland gives him at least two years — the minimum threshold for a state prison sentence — Sandusky's first stop will be the Camp Hill state prison near Harrisburg, where all male inmates undergo a couple weeks of testing to determine such things as mental and physical health, education level and any treatment needs.
Prison officials will assign him a security level risk and decide which "home prison" to send him to.
Although Sandusky's home in the Lemont area of State College is only a couple miles from Rockview state prison, there is no way to predict where he will end up.
Older inmates sometimes end up at Laurel Highlands, which can better treat more severe medical problems, or Waymart, a comparatively lower-security prison in the state's northeastern corner.
The roughly 6,800 sex offenders are scattered throughout the prison system, which has no special units for them. Treatment is available for sex offenders, and those who hope to be paroled must participate.
"My guess is he'll wind up in a minimum-security facility, and probably a facility for nonviolent people," Amendola said.
A convicted sex offender who spent 10 years in prison, and who works with other released sex offenders through the Pennsylvania Prison Society, said Sandusky won't be able to keep a low profile.
"You can have some control over how obscure you are as a prisoner," said the 52-year-old man from the Philadelphia suburbs, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the stigma attached to sex offenses. "You can either make yourself standout, or you can stay closer to the woodwork. There's no hiding that man."
The state will provide him with clothes, shoes and bedding, and the first set of toiletries. He'll be able to bring a wedding ring without gemstones, a basic watch worth $50 or less, eyeglasses and dentures. Sandusky uses a machine for sleep apnea and takes medications.
State prison menus rotate monthly, and two of the three daily meals are hot. Exercise rules vary, but inmates generally spend an hour or more a day in the yard, which might entail walking, playing ball or lifting weights. If he's at a prison that allows baseball or softball, the bat has to be tethered and secured to the backstop. In the kitchen, knives also are tethered.
Inmates can buy a television with a 13-inch screen for their cells, at a cost of about $275, with prison-designed programming of about 15 channels that costs some $15 a month. The channels include the networks but no R-rated movies or shows with a lot of violence.
He'll be able to watch college football, including Penn State, when the games are broadcast on ESPN or another major network.
"A lot of guys live for it," said the man who works with released sex offenders. "Football season is huge."
Sandusky, a regular attendee at a Methodist church in State College, will be able to go to religious services.
There's also a shared television in the day room, a common area where inmates congregate when not confined to their cells. The guards usually decide what channel to have it on. Cards are popular, as are dominoes and board games.
If he has a musical bent, Sandusky will have a list of approved instruments to choose from for purchase.
Sandusky, who has a master's degree, will be encouraged to work, and most inmates do, although it's not technically mandatory. An inmate's first job is often in the kitchen or doing janitorial work, while more coveted occupations include maintenance, landscaping, clerical work or tutoring.
The pay barely covers the cable bill: 19 to 51 cents an hour, with a 30-hour work week. Some of that money may go to pay fines or costs, or toward the $10 copay for a doctor visit.
If people on the outside put money on his account, it also can be deducted to pay any fines and costs.
For those who can afford it, the commissary sells snacks, cigarettes and toiletries. He'll be able to have books and magazines sent to him inside prison, but if personal property starts to pile up, officials will direct him to box it up and send them home.
Most Pennsylvania prison cells are designed for two people, but it's possible he could end up in his own cell or in a small dormitory.
Visiting rules vary by institution, but all visits last at least an hour, and facilities generally allow two or three visits per week, with five to eight visitors allowed at once. Inmates can have up to 40 people on their visiting list.
There's another possibility for Sandusky, said Bill DiMascio, executive director of the prison society: They could swap him for an inmate in another state.
"They might even put him in a federal prison," DiMascio said. "They have some other options."
If Sandusky writes a book, state law will prevent him from making any money off of it.
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