Prison Bad Priest Is Headed to 'Like a College Campus'
Sex Abuse Scandal | Molesters Often Targeted, but Officials Say He'll Be Safe

By Abdon M. Pallasch
Chicago Sun-Times
July 24, 2007,CST-NWS-priest24.article

Illinois — The prison in Downstate Jacksonville where the Rev. Daniel McCormack is serving an expected two- to five-year sentence "looks like a college campus," one prison expert said.

"There are a lot of programs, a lot of freedom," said Charlie Fasano, director of the Prisons and Jails Program for the John Howard Association, a nonprofit prison watchdog group. "Most [offenders there] are nonviolent, doing short bits."

It's the kind of place where prison officials hope McCormack -- who pleaded guilty this month to fondling five boys at a West Side Catholic parish and school -- will be safe, even though prison inmates sometimes target convicted child molesters for attacks.

"If you had a pedophile, you were constantly peeling 'Chester the Molester' cartoons off their lockers," said Chuck Stout, a union official who represents guards at Jacksonville and other Illinois prisons. In 18 years as a Jacksonville guard, he never saw a child molester attacked.

State prison officials foresee no problems for McCormack. "If there is a security risk, or we see there are some problems that have arisen, we will take action to see that he is secure," Corrections Department spokeswoman Januari Smith said.

When molesters have been killed in prison -- such as the Rev. John Geoghan of Boston -- it has been by life-sentence prisoners with "nothing to lose." At Jacksonville, by contrast, all prisoners are serving sentences of eight years or less, Smith said.

"Those are people who, it looks like, will see the light of day," she said.

McCormack's attorney, Patrick Reardon, said he called Jacksonville to make sure his client was looked after but did not request "protective custody."

That kind of single-cell arrangement exists only at less-pleasant, high-security state prisons. Jacksonville has 10 bunk beds in a room.

Contact: Abdon M. Pallasch


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