Prison Is 'Living Hell' for Pedophiles
Aug. 26, 2003 — -- In prison, fellow inmates derisively call pedophiles "chesters," "tree jumpers" and "short eyes."
Prison can be a menacing place for child molesters like the former Roman Catholic priest John Geoghan, who was killed in his cell Saturday — or for other alleged pedophile priests working their way through the criminal justice system.
"If you take out a sex offender like this former priest in Massachusetts, maybe the person who took him out thought he'd make a name of himself," said Margot Bach, a spokeswoman for California Department of Corrections. "Taking [a pedophile] out would gain [the killer] a lot more respect among the other inmates."
In fact, Goeghan's accused killer, Joseph Druce, "looked upon Father Geoghan as a prize," and plotted his killing for a month, John Conte, district attorney for Worcester County, Mass., told reporters Monday.
Though prison officials in some Northeastern states question the idea of an automatic social hierarchy among prisoners based solely upon their offenses, most agree that if there is one, child molesters and informants — derided as "snitches" — occupy the lowest rungs.
Such offenders, including Geoghan, often are placed into protective custody with other prisoners seen to be under a threat.
"Once their crime has become known, they usually don't make it" without protective custody, said Lt. Ken Lewis, a corrections officer and spokesman at California's Los Angeles County State Prison. "There's a lot of [pedophiles] that can successfully make it … as long as they don't brag about their offense."
If they do talk, "they'll get beat up," Lewis added. "In some places he may even get his throat cut."
That potentially could mean a lot of inmates at risk. At the end of 2001, about 83,000 state prison inmates, or about 6.8 percent, were male sex offenders who had committed a rape or sexual assault against a minor under age 18, according to Allen Beck, chief of corrections statistics for the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
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