National Columnist

Sandusky sentencing a footnote in ongoing monstrosity of child abuse


Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison. (Getty Images)  
Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison. (Getty Images)  

Even if the monster asks for pity, Judge John Cleland will have no choice. Cleland will gaze upon Jerry Sandusky on Tuesday in Bellefonte, Pa., and utter one very large number -- followed by the word "years" -- and it will be over for Jerry Sandusky. He will be sent to prison, where he will die.

But it won't be over for the victims. It won't be over for Penn State. And it won't be over for society.

This stuff, these wounds, these monsters ... they don't just go away.

That's why Tuesday's sentencing hearing will be so awful, even if it goes as planned and Judge Cleland sends Sandusky to prison for the rest of his life. That's the right result to a wrong story, an age-old story in too many places -- including State College in the Joe Paterno era. It's a story that will continue, because these stories, like these wounds, don't simply stop. They just pack their bags and take up residence somewhere else.

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With child predators like Sandusky, mind-boggling monsters with urges that make no rational sense, there are very few things we know -- only things we think. And here's what I think: I think monsters like Jerry Sandusky are made, not born. When they were kids someone hurt them so horribly that it rewired their personality to the point that they, as adults, commit the same horrible acts against other kids.

Something happened to Sandusky as a kid, and years later he repeated what he learned. That's what I think. It's a vicious cycle, this circle of evil, but Sandusky won't talk about it even if it's in his best interest to do so. He pre-released a statement Monday night proclaiming his innocence, even his martyrdom. He blames the media, blames the legal system, even blames the victims.

Pity for this man? No pity. He was born with the same innocence as everybody else, but that person is long gone. What's left in his place is a monster who doesn't know right from wrong, a monster who would do unto others as it was done unto him and then have the nerve, the childlike stupidity, to deny what everyone knows.

And so Judge Cleland will have no choice but to send this monster to prison for the rest of his life.

But whatever number Cleland doles out -- 100 years, maybe more -- it won't matter on two fronts.

One, Sandusky is never getting out.

Two, the next Sandusky won't be scared straight.

You don't scare these monsters straight, which is why predators like Sandusky can never be set free. They don't stop. They don't heal. The prison system is meant for punishment and rehabilitation, but pedophiles aren't rehabilitated. They aren't fixed. And in those rare moments when they drop the scales that cover them and acknowledge the monster within, they know it. That's why, on that day in 1998 when the local district attorney set up a sting at the house of a victim, Sandusky blurted out to the victim's mother, "I wish I were dead."

Monsters like Sandusky, they know. They can't stop -- they can only be stopped. Two weeks ago in Virginia, a pedophile named Paul Aragon pleaded guilty to receiving or distributing child pornography. When federal agents caught him in May 2011, he said, "I'm a pedophile. I'm sick. I want to die."

A monster like Paul Aragon, a monster like Jerry Sandusky, they should get their wish -- although justice systems around the world are trying to figure out what else to do with them. In some countries and a handful of U.S. states, chemical and even surgical castrations are performed on convicted pedophiles, though the surgical option is done only voluntarily. Pennsylvania doesn't have a version of castration in its laws.

Whatever happens to Sandusky on Tuesday, it won't solve anything. Don't get me wrong -- it has to happen. He has to be locked away forever. But it won't help anyone. His victims have been hurt too badly, and on a much lesser scale so has the reputation of a once idyllic place known as Happy Valley. That charade is over, and while it may regenerate over time, it won't happen in our lifetime. State College as we know it and Penn State as we know it have been hurt too badly.

They were hurt by Sandusky, though this didn't start with him. And it won't end with him, either. This hurt will go somewhere else, smiling and deceiving, with only hints and suggestions at the evil inside. A handful of people at Penn State heard those hints and saw those suggestions, but they ignored it, hoping it would go away.

It doesn't go away.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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