Jerry Sandusky, guilty of 45 out of 47 charges related to child sexual abuse, will spend the next 30 years in prison. The long-awaited sentencing for the former Penn State assistant coach was expected to leave Sandusky in a jail cell for the remainder of his life, and at age 68 that may in fact be the case.
Judge John Cleland mandated Sandusky remain behind bars for a minimum of 30 years but no more than 60 years. Sandusky actually faced at least 400 years of jail time, a term Cleland acknowledged in his sentencing, but Cleland believed the timeframe issued was a clear message Sandusky will serve what essentially becomes a life sentence.
The perceived shortness of the sentence has already been widely criticized by many in the media as too lenient and a disgrace to the victims abused by Sandusky. But what could possibly serve more justice than knowing the rest of one's life will be spent cramped in a jail cell with no opportunity to live within the community, freely visit friends and relatives and maintain what was once thought to be a charming personality?
Make no mistake about it, justice was served to Sandusky.
Had Sandusky been 30 years younger, a different sentence may very well have been issued. While precedent is everything in the legal system, everything about this particular case seemed unprecedented. From the scope of the entire investigation that essentially tore down the walls of a well-respected university, not to mention what was once viewed as a model football program, to the branches throughout the community and government this child abuse case reached, there was no precedent to rely on, nor should there be one to fall on in the future.
The reaction by many at the length of Sandusky's sentence is natural. Given the harm he inflicted on so many innocent lives – and who knows how many more currently in hiding – we all want to see Sandusky dealt the full punishment allowed by the law. Truthfully, we want to see the punishment go beyond the full extent of the law. We will be quick to suggest Sandusky is getting off easy with this sentence more so because we actually fear it does set a precedent for future convicted child molesters who may not be senior citizens. But again, do not misunderstand the logic that went in to this sentence from Judge Cleland.
If you feel the sentence lacks some comfort or justice for the victims of Sandusky, that may not be accurate either. Tom Kline, the lawyer representing Victim 1, told a Philadelphia television news reporter after the sentencing his client felt justice was served.
Will Sandusky live to be 98 years old in prison? The odds seem stacked against it, but it is certainly possible. Imagine a 97-year old Sandusky surviving in prison and counting down the days to the end of his first 30 years, hoping to one day be able to leave the confines of prison.
Then imagine his heart being broken as he learns he will not be freed.
Sandusky has been put away for life. That is all the justice that needed to be served.
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This post was originally published on Examiner.com.