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Perpetual state of living death


Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach at the center of the Penn State University child sex abuse scandal, was moved last week to the prison where he will likely spend the rest of his days. He will be held in protective custody so other prisoners will not kill or injure him.

The old fable turns out to be true: Even hardened criminals can’t stand a child abuser. But because of the horrible nature of his crimes, some people will wish that Sandusky, 68, had been thrown to the inmate wolves with the same consideration for mercy he gave to his child victims.

Whether the death penalty should not be limited to murderers and apply also to such molesters is a separate discussion.

But no one should make the mistake of thinking that Sandusky is getting off easy.

His new address is the maximum-security State Correctional Institution at Greene in Waynesburg, Pa. There are no lovely days in that neighborhood. He is now with the worst of the worst; the prison houses death-row inmates.

This is what protective custody means: Sandusky will remain in his cell 22 to 23 hours a day. He is allowed an hour of exercise outside his cell five days a week and he must eat his meals inside it. He can shower only three times a week. Any religious or counseling service will take place in his cell. All visits are non-contact. When he does leave the cell, he will have an escort.

He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison, time enough to consider the enormity of his crimes in this state of living death. In the long years hence, he may come to think that a quick death from a shiv wielded by a vengeful fellow prisoner would have been more merciful.