On his 14th birthday, Owen Welty got an unexpected gift: a half-pint carton of milk and chocolate sheet cake for 40 -- enough to share with all his fellow inmates and the guards at a Missouri jail.
Already confined eight months while awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges, Owen savored his drink and his slice. On the inside, mundane items become luxuries, metal and glass containers can be weaponized, and jailhouse noise can keep sleep at bay, leaving plenty of time for contemplation.
“I’d sit down and just start thinking,” Owen recalls.
He fixated on being charged in the death of his 64-year-old neighbor, and the possibility of 30 years in prison. Cravings for Big Macs and clean clothes. Fears about fighting off older inmates who targeted him for attacks. Boredom from being kept in isolation for weeks at a time. Costly legal efforts that burdened his family.