Jared Lee Loughner passes his days alone in a cell at a Missouri prison facility in therapy sessions with psychologists, watching TV, looking at photos of his pets and snacking on junk food.
The most detailed portrait of the daily prison life of the man charged with shooting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords emerged Wednesday at a hearing in Tucson where a judge extended his stay in the facility by another four months so doctors have more time to try to make him mentally fit for trial.
Most of the details of his daily life were provided by Dr. Christina Pietz, a psychologist who has been treating Loughner.
The 23-year-old lives in a cell that consists of one room, a shower, bathroom and recreation area. Prison staff members pass his psychotropic drugs through a grille made of metal rods that separate Loughner from everyone else.
He drinks the oral solutions daily and washes them down with cups of water. He usually lies on his bed when his therapists come by daily in sessions that last between 15 minutes and an hour.
A spokeswoman at Loughner’s prison did not return a call for comment Thursday about his activities or a description of his cell. The federal Bureau of Prison has denied a Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press to provide records of Loughner’s behavior in prison.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six and injured 13, including Giffords.
In making the decision to forcibly medicate Loughner, prison authorities cited an April 4 incident in which Loughner spat on his own attorney and also brought up an outburst during a March 28 interview with a mental health expert in which Loughner became enraged, cursed at her and threw a plastic chair.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns has ruled that it’s probable that Loughner can be made mentally fit to stand trial. The Bureau of Prison’s website said that Loughner was still in Tucson on Thursday afternoon and hadn’t yet flown back to Missouri.
Back in Missouri, Loughner gets three trays of food each day and, since his mental condition has improved, has been getting snacks from the prison commissary. His weight has fluctuated through his stay there.
Pietz mentioned that he likes oatmeal and junk food. The commissary menu offers peanut butter cookies, rainbow sherbet, macaroni and cheese, jumbo pickles and Vienna sausages.
He passes the time by looking at photos of his pet dogs and turtles. He watches TV at night to help him fall asleep. And he pays close attention to his calendar, even telling one of the psychologists about his Sept. 10 birthday.
At another time, Loughner told another therapist that he had marked his calendar. “He indicated he put some of his blood on his calendar to remind himself that he cannot go back in time,” wrote one unnamed therapist whose report was shown in court Wednesday.
Loughner’s personal hygiene had been poor earlier during his stay in Missouri, but more recently he has asked for haircuts and for his fingernails to be trimmed, something he never asked for before being medicated. He also recently asked a female staff member to leave while he showers, whereas before he would strip down before whoever was around, including female staff members. The shower curtain was removed because guards need to keep an eye on Loughner at all times due to his suicidal tendencies.
He recently wrote a note in which he said he wanted to hang himself after a discussion he had had about going to Tucson for Wednesday’s court hearing. Even as his doctors say he has improved, Loughner remains on suicide watch.
Before he was first put on suicide watch months ago, prison staff watched Loughner 18 hours a day. He is now watched 24 hours a day.
Prison staff removed items they thought posed a danger to Loughner, but have recently returned most of them.
Pietz, Loughner’s treating psychologist, said Loughner remains on suicide watch because he hasn’t made a credible denial of his suicidal thoughts. She said that Loughner has said there is nothing in his room to hang himself with, meaning he is still contemplating taking his life.