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Is Justice Being Served by Jail Time for Ex-Penn State Administrators?

by on July 17, 2017 5:00 AM

Tim Curley and Gary Schultz reported to the Centre County Correctional Facility on Saturday to begin serving their sentences for child endangerment convictions.

Curley, Penn State’s former athletic director, and Schultz, former senior vice president at the university, pleaded guilty earlier this year for their handling of a 2001 report about former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky with a boy in a locker room shower. Sandusky would be convicted in 2012 of child sexual abuse.

The third university administrator to be charged in the Sandusky case, former Penn State President Graham Spanier, continues to fight his sentencing in court.

When I saw the pictures of Curley and Schultz in yellow jail uniforms, I had an “ah-ha” moment. This whole, awful situation and the past six years of this case and its ripple effect on so many people have finally reached the stage of insanity.

Does anyone really think that having these men in jail makes sense?

It is important to note that I support the victims in this case and any and all survivors of sexual abuse.  For many years, I worked in in-patient psychiatric hospitals. I saw and heard about the horrifying impact that abuse of any kind can have on children. There were nights then that I could not sleep because of their stories. In so many cases, I saw children and teens who not only suffered the abuse but were then repeatedly violated by the system (i.e., kids who tell are often removed from their homes while the perpetrators get to stay; horrific interrogations; sometimes having to testify in court in front of the perpetrators). I worked with adults who had not recovered from their childhood experiences. The emotional toll for the survivors is devastating. I also know that even for trained, mandated reporters, the process is uncomfortable and confusing, if not defined by uncertainty and “Am I sure?”

In our rush to make sure that we react to the horrific crimes that took place in our community, did we overreact by sending these men to jail?

We send people to jail or prison to send a message. First, we punish people for committing a crime (and to send the message to others that committing a crime means you “do the time”). Second, we remove people from society who are dangerous or at risk for committing additional crimes until they are deemed no longer so. Last, and probably where our society fails the most often, is that we hope somewhere along in the process, the prisoner will be rehabilitated and be able to return to society.

Is there anyone who honestly believes that the three administrators in this case have not learned their lesson? Does anyone believe that any one of them is at risk for committing this crime again? No. If the comments following many of the articles about the administrators is any indication, people want someone to pay for the horrific crimes of Jerry Sandusky.  

I believe that person – Jerry Sandusky – is paying for his crimes, living his hell, alone, in his prison cell.

So sending Tim Curley and Gary Schultz and possibly Graham Spanier to jail is really about vengeance. It means we get to show that we are holding them responsible for not telling the right people what Mike McQueary may or may not have told them and Coach Joe Paterno. It means we get to point to their pictures in those yellow jumpsuits and say that we hold them to the highest of standards of conduct, even though trained law enforcement and public welfare officials had initially, a few years earlier, found no case against Sandusky. It makes us feel better to think that sending them away will deter others from fumbling with decisions in an untenable, unimaginable situation that not only involves a skilled perpetrator but which falls outside of the purview of our personal and professional expertise.

And when they pleaded guilty, as in the case of Curley and Schultz, we pretended it wasn’t to end, for them, what had become six years of guilt and second guessing, lost jobs, and life works denigrated. We pretended it wasn’t about six years of damaged relationships and social standing. We pretended it wasn’t about their own medical and emotional stress but also that of their families and friends. We pretend it wasn’t a legal hedging of one’s bets on how a judge or jury might react to the remaining charge of endangering a child in what has become one of the most notorious and publicized cases in history.

And so they are doing their time. They are doing their time despite having no previous criminal records. They each had decades of professional and community service as responsible citizens who contributed to our community and to Penn State. They may have made questionable decisions and possibly put people in danger. They have faced the consequences.

Repeat offenders of domestic violence or driving under the influence who are walking the streets and driving their cars also put people in danger and we don’t see their pictures in jumpsuits on the front of every news site. We think about about those people with clean records who are offered alternate sentencing and rehabilitation programs because we know they too have agonized and aren’t at risk for reoffending.

Is justice really being served?

Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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