Hulk Hogan: Jail Making Son a Better Man
07/31/2008 AT 07:20 PM EDT
"They moved him to the place that he should have been in the beginning," says Hogan, 54, whose son was transferred out of maximum-security after turning 18 last Sunday.
While he was under-age, Bollea was segregated from the rest of the prison population – at one point spending 28 days in solitary confinement because no other cell was available.
"It's much better," he says. "Nick describes it as like a two-story warehouse with tables, seven or eight phones, TVs, and it's people who are there for like child support and parking tickets. And instead of just once in a while being allowed go outside, they leave the door open to the exercise yard. He said, 'Dad, I can even go outside at night and look at the stars.'"
The move has been a relief for Hogan, who is in New York City promoting the season finale of American Gladiators (airing Aug. 4, 8 p.m., on NBC). Hogan had worried about his son's mental health, but since Sunday, he says, "He's very positive, and very aware and present. He's doing great."
While Bollea is still not allowed in-person visits, on his birthday he received a rare visit (via video-screen) from not only his family but a number of friends as well. Hogan brought a cake and a big card, and held it up for him to see on the monitor.
"He said, 'I'll probably have a hard time making everybody understand this, but this was the best birthday I've ever had,'" Hogan recalls.
Hogan also tells PEOPLE that the time in jail has helped Bollea to become a better man.
"He was moving through life and maybe not real appreciative of things," Hogan says. "When this happened, it totally spun him in a 180. ... It's the best thing that ever happened to him. I'm not saying it's a good thing. But it happened for a reason."
Because his son has been participating in an inmate work program, Hogan added, Bollea is now expected to be released from jail a few days early – possibly in late October.
"Nick is doing great, and I'm so excited, because Nick is going to be a great man now," Hogan says. "I'm proud of him."