Bill Cosby spent his first night behind bars at a new, state-of-the-art, maximum security prison in suburban Philadelphia.
The 81-year-old felon was hauled out of the Montgomery County courthouse in handcuffs Tuesday afternoon after a judge handed him a three to 10 year prison stay for drugging and sexually assaulting Temple University’s women’s basketball administrator Andrea Constand in 2004.
He spent a few hours in county jail before being shipped off to SCI Phoenix, a modern 3,830-bed facility that opened in June.
The lock-up was built to replace SCI Gaterford, which was built in 1929, and boasts 1,200 full-time employees. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel has described it as a “21st century institution with advanced security features, environmentally efficient infrastructure and modern work and housing spaces.”
Once celebrated for his portrayal of the charming father figure Dr. Cliff Huxtable, Cosby was also declared a sexually violent predator — a designation that requires him to register as a sex offender and attend mandatory counseling for the rest of his life. SCI Phoenix offers such treatment in addition to programs for alcohol and drug addiction and relapse prevention, according to its website.
The prison also offers basic adult education and vocational classes including barbering, custodial maintenance, and carpentry.
When it first opened earlier this summer, SCI was rocked with allegations of racism and hate crimes. More than two dozen inmates told The Inquirer and Daily News some of their personal effects were vandalized and ruined when they were transferred over to the $400 million facility.
Many of them described racial slurs and graphic imagery drawn on photographs of their loved ones while others reported food like “squeeze cheese” being poured into boxes containing their property.
A prison spokesperson at the time said “all property discrepancies are being reviewed and are in the process of being resolved.” Inmates told the Philadelphia newspaper they were being reimbursed with taxpayer dollars, though how much they have each received is not clear.
Correction officials will assess Cosby’s needs and safety issues in the coming days to determine whether he will remain at SCI Phoenix. His lawyers have said he is legally blind.
District Attorney Kevin Steele said the the once beloved comic could end up at SCI Laurel Highlands, a state prison for lower-risk inmates located about 70 miles outside of Pittsburgh. It’s the state Correction Department’s provider to inmates with special needs, including those in need of long term care.
SCI Laurel Highlands also hosts a general prison population, according to its website. It features a separate housing unit for geriatric inmates and also offers the counseling required by Cosby’s sentence.
It opened in 1996 and currently holds nearly 1,600 inmates.