PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Imprisoned serial child sex offender Jerry Sandusky lives under tight restrictions for his own safety, a corrections official said on Saturday, after the former Penn State football coach asked for more prison privileges.
“He is being housed in the appropriate facility in order to assure his safety,” said Susan McNaughton, press secretary for the Pennsylvania state Department of Corrections.
She responded to questions from Reuters after one of Sandusky’s lawyers complained that his client was confined to his cell 23 hours a day.
“He’s being treated like the worst of the worst in the state prison system in terms of his daily routine,” attorney Karl Rominger said on Saturday.
He said Sandusky is treated like extremely violent offenders, or those on death row.
Sandusky, 68, Penn State’s former defensive coordinator, was convicted in June of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, some in the football team’s showers. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
The scandal sparked a national debate over child sex abuse, embarrassed the university and implicated a number of its top officials including legendary football head coach, the late Joe Paterno.
There has been speculation that Sandusky would be threatened by other inmates in prison if he was given more privileges.
Rominger said he visited Sandusky Friday and found that he has bounced back emotionally from the trial and sentencing.
“This is the strongest, sharpest I’ve seen him since the trial,” Rominger said.
“He has books and material to read to study for the case, to do some legal research, and can do some writing. I think it’s really helped his spirits.”
Sandusky, who has maintained his innocence, is in a 1,800-inmate maximum security prison that serves as death row for the state.
“If he was any other sex offender besides Jerry Sandusky he would have a job, he would be out of his cell six hours a day plus, he would have access to a pay phone at all times, he would be able to interact freely with other people during recreation time, he would be able to go to bed check and showers,” Rominger said.
“He’s not being treated like every other sex offender in Pennsylvania, and the security issues have nothing to do with his crimes, and everything to do with the publicity around him and his crimes,” he said.
Rominger said he will ask prison officials to increase Sandusky’s telephone privileges from two calls per month to two personal calls, and 10 calls to his legal team to prepare for future legal proceedings.
Rominger said he would like to see Sandusky transferred to a less restrictive prison that houses inmates who are less violent.
McNaughton said Sandusky has a television in his cell, which is unusual for new inmates. Prison officials regularly review the situation of inmates, she said.
“He needs to be patient and let the process work,” McNaughton said.
Editing by Greg McCune and Bill Trott