Jeff Smith: What Sandusky Can Expect in Prison — And What the Washington Post Doesn’t Understand

As our regular RP Nation readers know, contributing recovering politician and former Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith spent a year in a federal prison due to circumstances relating around a campaign finance violation.  His pieces about his political rise and fall, and his observations about sex in prison have been this site’s most popular reads — by far.  

A few months ago, he gave some helpful advice to former Governor Rod Blagojevitch upon the beginning of his prison term.  

Today, he answers the question on the minds of many Americans: What can the nation’s most infamous pedophile — former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky — expect during his life term in prison.  It is certainly not what the mainstream media has reported:

Last week, the Washington Post ran an AP story about what ex-Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky can expect in prison.

I’m not sure if they ran such an airbrushed version out of naivete or because it’s a family newspaper. But in case anyone is curious, let me see if I can shed a bit more light.

If prison were India, there would be two classes of untouchables: snitches and pedophiles. Child molesters try desperately to blend into the population. However, the most famous pedophile in the nation right now is going to have a hard time blending in.

1) According to the Post, Sandusky “will be able to watch college football, including Penn State, when the games are broadcast on ESPN or another major network.”

If the television set in the common area is tuned to the Penn St. game, then Sandusky just might be able to watch it. But if it’s not, and Sandusky – or any other newbie – walks up to try to change the channel, the result will not be pretty.

2) The Post notes that cards, dominoes, and board games. are popular prison activities in which Sandusky could participate.

No one will want to be seen playing cards with Jerry Sandusky. From the minute Sandusky walks onto the compound, he will be targeted, and anyone who voluntarily and publicly associates with him will immediately be suspect.

3) The Post writes that 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.

It’s not just “possible,” it’s overwhelmingly likely. Given the fact that he will be in danger from the moment he arrives, I imagine that he’ll start out in isolation until emotions surrounding the case cool. If not, anyone Sandusky is placed with would have to fight Sandusky in order to preserve his own reputation, which would lead to the removal of one (or both) from the cell. The problem would likely continue for as long as Sandusky is placed in the general population.

4) According to the Post, Sandusky could be swapped in for an inmate in another state.

It’s possible, but it probably wouldn’t change anything for him: his face was ubiquitous around the country, not just in Pennsylvania.

5) Inmates, noted the Post, generally spend an hour in the yard, which might entail playing softball, though the bat has to be tethered and secured to the backstop.

The bat being tethered to the backstop would not prevent it from being used on anyone standing (or dragged to a location) near the backstop.

6) After noting that Sandusky’s prison job will pay somewhere between 19-51 cents an hour, the Post notes that his wages may be applied towards the $10 copay for a doctor visit.

This is true. But if Jerry Sandusky is placed anywhere except isolation, no amount of wages is going to cover all the medical expenses he will incur.

Of course, unlike most inmates, Sandusky is unlikely to end up keeping his wages. Inmates are always hustling, and one of the more lucrative hustles is to offer “protection” to pedophiles. Now, whether or not the extortionist actually protects the pedophile is an open question. He might. There is, in some cases, honor among thieves.

Or he might claim to have been at his job, or called down to the admin office, or otherwise occupied at the time of the beating. Or maybe – just maybe – he lets the predators know when he’ll be gone.

Regardless, any money that Sandusky’s friends or family puts on his account will likely be discovered, by people watching him when he goes to the commissary and looking at the printout of his balance. And I suspect that ingenious inmates will hatch a variety of schemes in an attempt to part the pedophile and his money.

You can follow contributing RP Jeff Smith at 



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