As former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky prepares for his sentencing hearing on Tuesday, some are wondering if he will become a victim of sexual assault once he is placed into the Pennsylvania Corrections prison system.
Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child sexual assault in July of this year. A Reuters report states that he could be sentenced to a maximum of 373 years in prison. At age 68, even a sentence of 20 years likely will mean Sandusky will spend the remainder of his life in prison.
Sandusky's conviction stems from accusations that he sexually abused 10 boys over the course of 15-years. One of the incidents occurred in 2011 and was witnessed by then graduate assistant Mike McQueary. McQuerary testified he saw Sandusky pressed up against the back of a boy in the shower room of the Lasch Football Building.
Danger for Sandusky
Thousands of inmates are raped while in prison each year in the U.S. Federal Government statistics show that sex offenders are roughly two to four times more likely than other inmates to fall victim. Sandusky's age could play a factor in making him more vulnerable to sexual assault as well.
According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 4.5% of all prisoners incarcerated in U.S. prisons in 2007 were victims of sexual assault, which amounts to 60,500 inmates. Some of those inmates reported being assaulted multiple times.
According to a Washington Post report, Sandusky's high profile, combined with the charges of child rape, means he could easily be a target for sexual assault once he is behind bars.
Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, told the Washington Post: “The Sandusky case is one of those moments when our core beliefs are really tested. 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.”
A 2003 ABC report quoted Margot Bach, a spokeswoman for California Department of Corrections, as saying: "If you take out a sex offender...maybe the person who took him out thought he'd make a name of himself. Taking [a pedophile] out would gain [the killer] a lot more respect among the other inmates."
The same report stated that if there is a social hierarchy among prisoners that is based upon their offenses, child molesters and informants are on the bottom rung.
I spoke with a former Sexual Assault Detective with the Metro Nashville Police Department. She told me that it is not uncommon for pedophiles to become prime targets for physical and sexual abuse in county jails and the state prison system. "Murderers and even other rapist don't like pedophiles. Believe it or not, there is actually a moral code among prisoners. You don't mess with children and you don't mess with the elderly. If you are in prison for raping a child, you better watch your back because there are a lot of people that will be gunning for you."