Before being found guilty of 45 counts of child sex abuse and then being sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison, Jerry Sandusky astounded the nation. He had the audacity to make an unapologetic statement that was broadcast on the Penn State College radio station, accusing his victims of lying and teaming up with the media and others to create a massive conspiracy against him. Then the next day in court in front of the judge, he reiterated his innocence with a rambling statement.
I have no doubt that Sandusky will soon feel the wrath of his sentence when he receives his first taste of jailhouse justice. Since I served hard time I know how it is to live in the prison environment. It’s a world of its own with rules and regulations that are designed to break an individual. How hard the time can be depends on your crime. Pedophiles serve the hardest time. Believe it or not prisoners frown upon deviant crimes like those that Sandusky was convicted of and go out of their way to make the lives of those that are convicted of them miserable.
When I was serving a 15 to Life sentence at Sing Sing I knew someone who was serving time for a similar crime as Sandusky was convicted of. Unlike Jerry Sandusky who entered the criminal justice system with a bang because of the media attention he got, Carl did not. He was quiet as a mouse and no one knew his crime until it was discovered by accident.
I worked as a jailhouse paralegal in Sing Sing prison. I was sitting at my desk in the paralegal room one day when a book clerk came in and showed me a law book. The index had been ripped out along with several pages. Ripping pages out of law books is a mortal sin in prison. Law books are prisoners’ link to freedom and they’re worth their weight in gold. Any prisoner caught ripping out pages would get a rude awakening to jail house justice. First, a crew of library workers would drag the guy into the backroom and give him a beating. Then they would ban him from using law books. The clerk’s room had an additional set of law books, so I pulled the book off the shelf and discovered that the exact pages were missing!
When a case was missing from two law books, it usually meant that someone didn’t want the case to be seen. I wrote to the New York State Library and requested the missing pages. In about two weeks, I received the materials. I scanned the name of the case and discovered it belonged to Carl, one of the book clerks. Ironically, Carl’s job was to repair damaged books in the library. He was a strange guy, quiet, middle-aged and pony-tailed. His legal specialty was litigating Court of Claim actions; he’d filed many successful motions for prisoners. Carl was also obsessed with green towels. In fact, he decorated his cell with them.
I read the missing case and was appalled. Carl had been found guilty of molesting several young children and was busted shortly after having sex with a six-year-old girl and a ten-year-old boy. The molested kids identified Carl when they described a green towel he had used to wipe himself off after his acts. What really freaked me out was that Carl always carried a green washcloth in his back pocket — the same one he offered to people if they needed to wipe something. Carl’s case was photocopied and passed around the law library. It was all over for Carl when Panama, a law clerk who’d recently borrowed Carl’s towel to wipe his face, cornered him in the book room. He almost beat him to death with a typewriter.
Here is how I predict it will go down for Sandusky. Jerry will no doubt be placed in protective custody for his safety. This is an area of the prison that is well secured and he will be locked in his cell for 23 hours a day with no contact from any other prisoner.
As soon as Jerry sets foot in the prison where he set to spend the rest of his life, predators will be on the lookout to take his head off. Sandusky will know this and will be petrified with fear. His fear will be elevated when he is placed on suicide watch. Life as he knew it will cease to exist. His daily routine of survival will become mundane and without meaning. Sandusky’s best friend will become the voice in his head that continuously will tell him that he will win an appeal and he will eventually set free.
Most prisoners have this illusion since they do not know that less than 2 percent of all criminal appeals win. Time will pass by very slowly and his days will drag on forcing him to always focus on his crimes. He will pace his cell back and forth and the victims of his vile acts will continuously haunt him making his life miserable. His lawyers will pump him up with hope draining his bank account for fruitless appeals for his case. After he exhausts his resources to pay his legal fees his lawyers will stop taking his collect calls. Then one day his wife who has stuck in his corner will be gone. As the years roll by and he is standing alone in his tiny cage, remorseful of his actions, Jerry Sandusky will come to the realization that the only way he is ever getting out of prison is in a body bag.
Anthony Papa is an artist, writer, and Manager of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.
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