Pedophile Feared for His Life in Jail

By Karen Nugent
Telegram & Gazette [Shirley MA]
Downloaded August 26, 2003

Former priest John J. Geoghan feared for his life for months after he was sent to Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, according to a lawyer at Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services.

"He was very, very scared," said James R. Pingeon, litigation director at the nonprofit law firm for inmates. "He told us that many times - in letters and in person. There is a certain tolerance in the department (of correction) for the active mistreatment of certain inmates."

Mr. Pingeon said Mr. Geoghan, 68, alleged that correction officers themselves were urinating and defecating in his food.

"The nature of his crimes made him a target for that sadistic culture found in prisons," Mr. Pingeon said.

The defrocked Catholic priest allegedly was strangled Saturday by fellow inmate Joseph L. Druce, 37, a self-professed neo-Nazi.

Mr. Geoghan was serving a 9- to 10-year sentence for assault and battery on a 10-year-old boy. He had been in protective custody - a kind of isolation - at the prison since he was transferred there from Concord State Prison in April.

Mr. Druce is serving a life sentence for a 1988 murder.

Mr. Pingeon said the legal services agency is calling for a full-scale investigation of the Department of Correction - and not simply of the immediate facts of Mr. Geoghan's death.

"Someone should investigate how very vulnerable people like Mr. Geoghan are allowed in contact with people like Druce," he said.

Mr. Pingeon suggested that the state Legislature, the state attorney general and perhaps the FBI be involved in an investigation, along with the Worcester district attorney's office.

While it is acceptable for inmates in protective custody to have some contact with other inmates in the unit, he said, it should be carefully determined beforehand who might become prey for violent criminals.

"A 68-year-old man is just not going to be able to defend himself physically," Mr. Pingeon said.

Wayne Bowers, director of the Michigan-based Sexual Offense Reform through Treatment, said it is impossible to maintain total isolation in a prison.

"The first thing I thought of when I heard about Mr. Geoghan was the Jeffrey Dahmer case. It is just very hard to protect high-profile people," he said. Mr. Dahmer, a notorious serial killer, was beaten to death in a Wisconsin prison in 1994.

"It all comes back to fear," Mr. Bowers said. "Maybe this person (Mr. Druce) was abused himself. There is rage in any sexual abuse case, and a reaction like that might reflect unresolved issues.

"It's all just very scary," Mr. Bowers said.

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