By Barbara Goldberg
Bill Cosby, used to the high life as one of America’s biggest stars, will likely see his entourage of aides replaced by an inmate paid pennies to help the legally blind comedian navigate life behind bars after he is sentenced for sexual assault
Cosby, 80, faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced in the next three months for drugging and raping Andrea Constand, 45, in 2004 at his sprawling compound outside Philadelphia. He is appealing the verdict, which could potentially delay his imprisonment for months or even years.
Should he eventually leave the world of private jets and luxury hotel suites, the disgraced star of the 1980s television hit “The Cosby Show” will become probably the best-known celebrity to hear the gates of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections shut behind him, according to a department spokeswoman, Susan McNaughton.
She said previous and current high-profile inmates have included legislators, ex-police officers and Jerry Sandusky, a former Pennsylvania State University football coach convicted in 2012 of being a serial child molester.
Another is Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political activist convicted in the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer.
Incarceration will be a stark change for the comedian, whose net worth was estimated in 2016 by Fortune magazine at $400 million, with $100 million invested in real estate, including homes in New York, Massachusetts and Nevada. He also owned a private jet, artwork and dozens of classic cars.
Once Cosby arrives behind bars, he will face an “incarceration reception process” to determine his healthcare and psychological treatment needs, his security level, and to which of 22 male prisons he will be sent.
He will be one of just 83 inmates aged 80 or older, and one of very few who are legally blind, McNaughton said
Such prisoners are typically assigned a sighted inmate, who is paid just 19 to 42 cents an hour, to assist them and lead them through the facility.
“Certainly Mr. Cosby would be fine,” she said. “Of course they (the inmate assistants) are screened, and there is a lot of monitoring and supervision.”
Like most inmates, Cosby will likely be allowed to receive and send emails, which are also screened for security purposes. Most inmates use prison-approved tablet computers.
Cosby’s prison assistant might also help sort any fan mail that passes a security screening.
“No drugs or contraband or influence of escape,” McNaughton said. “If it clears through the mailroom, it’s delivered to the inmate.”
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Dan Grebler)