2017-06-17 00:17:37 UTC
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
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.
They Usually Dont Make It
Such offenders, including Geoghan, often are placed into
protective custody with other prisoners seen to be under a
"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
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
Just 56 state and federal prisoners out of a population of
about 1.3 million were actually killed by other inmates during
the yearlong period between July 1999 and June 2000, and it was
unknown how many were pedophiles, Beck said.
But unpopular prisoners also can be harassed in other ways.
"[Child sex offenders] are at risk of being murdered, having
their food taken, having their cells defecated and urinated
in," said Leslie Walker, a prisoner's rights activist with the
Massachusetts Correctional Legal Society. "Their life is truly
a living hell."
Whos Running This Prison?
Part of the reason pedophiles can be so reviled is that some
inmates are parents, and many were themselves sexually abused
as children, some say. Druce's father told The Boston Herald
that Druce frequently had been molested.
Some reports have described Druce, 37, as a member of the neo-
Nazi hate group Aryan Nation. In particular, Druce who is
serving a life sentence for killing a gay man who picked him up
as a hitchhiker in 1988 "has a long-standing phobia, it
appears, towards homosexuals of any kind," Conte said.
With such a background, critics including Walker and Kazi
Toure, an ex-convict and prisoner support worker who still
visits Massachusetts prisons are asking how Druce could have
been placed in protective custody so near to the frail, 68-
year-old Geoghan at the maximum-security Souza-Baranowski
Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass.
Walker cited "a culture of looking the other way in prison."
Toure, co-director of the American Friends Service Committee's
Criminal Justice Program in Cambridge, Mass., said he, too, was
"For this guy who is in prison for killing a gay person he's
seeing Geoghan every day, so this stuff has got to be coming up
inside of him," Toure said. "We're spending all this money [on
high-tech prisons], and the guy got killed, and they want to
blame it on the crazy guy? Who's running this?"
Michael Shively, a former Massachusetts corrections official,
said even though Geoghan was in protective custody, it was
impossible to completely guarantee his safety given that the
other inmates who require protection are drawn from a difficult
and dangerous population.
"To put together a group of people where it looks like no
offender is a threat to another offender is almost impossible
when you're drawing from that pool," Shively said.
The pool of prisoners in protective custody can vary from state
to state, and does not automatically include all child
molesters and informants, officials and aid workers said.
California prison officials described a good deal of racial and
gang affiliation among that state's prison population and a
crime-based hierarchy among inmates with certain murderers at
the top of the heap.
Ironically, they said killing someone either at the top or the
bottom of the totem pole will garner respect for the killer
among fellow inmates so child molesters and high-profile
killers both tend to be given protective custody unless they're
deemed tough or discreet enough to get along in the general
But things are different in other parts of the country, said Ed
Ramsey, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of
Corrections, and a former corrections officer at a maximum-
security prison in the state.
Ramsey does not see a clearly defined "hierarchy of crimes"
among Connecticut inmates, nor large amounts of self-
segregation along gang and racial lines. Therefore, he said,
the state evaluates candidates for protective custody on a
case-by-case basis considering those who legitimately feel
endangered, or who the institution sees as potential targets
and therefore threats to maintaining order. Such targets might
include inmates in high-profile cases or jailed former law
In a further effort to maintain order, Connecticut officials do
segregate suspected members of certain gangs, including the
Aryan Brotherhood, within the prison system, Ramsey said.
Toure said although Massachusetts inmates may mock or scorn
pedophiles, he does not see a strict hierarchy of crimes in the
state's prisons that would lead to violence.
"I left Walpole [a maximum-security prison in Massachusetts] in
'87 and there wasn't a P.C. [protective custody] unit anymore
because that stuff wasn't happening anymore, because people
weren't killing other people because of sex offenders or
anything like that," he said. "It had died down."
But Toure said hate can fuel violence if it festers, and as
prison services for inmates are cut due to budget constraints,
inmates with personal issues can lash out at others who
personify their problems. He said the Geoghan killing might be
a case in point.
"They don't give [Druce] any counseling or any programs to help
him deal with any problems that brought him in prison," Toure
claimed. "Then, they put him in protective custody with John
Geoghan, who's in jail for child molestation."