Exclusive: A Glimpse Into Peterson's Jail Life


POSTED: 9:17 a.m. PDT July 18, 2003
UPDATED: 11:47 a.m. PDT July 18, 2003

Scott Peterson endures endless hours alone and isolated in his 6-by-9 maximum-security cell, the target of a constant chorus of jeers and taunts from unseen inmates housed on the other tiers of the Stanislaus County Jail.


That description comes from James Soares, a potential three-strike candidate who occupied a cell next to Peterson in the maximum-security tier of the jail for several months. In an exclusive interview, Soares has given KTVU's Ted Rowlands a glimpse of what everyday life has been like for Peterson, who is awaiting a September preliminary hearing on charges that he killed his wife and unborn child.


"It's hell," Soares said of life at the jail. "It's hell for everybody, not just for him…but for everybody. You are locked away from people…It's just hell. Especially here, this is craziest jail I've ever been in in my life. (There is) constant, constant yelling and screaming."


Many of those taunts and screams are aimed at Peterson, who is finding out first-hand what it's like to be a celebrity inmate within the prison culture. Soares said the inmates are aware of who Peterson is and why he is there. He said many of the inmates were openly hostile toward him.

Many of those inmates were also in jail the night Peterson arrived. A crowd had gathered outside the facility, carrying signs condemning him. Catcalls rained down on him as he was led handcuffed from the car.

Since that night, Peterson has let his hair go back to its natural color and shaved off a goatee. He has also settled into a prison routine that included the two men -- who could see each other -- spending hours playing chess on a makeshift board.

"It goes back and forth, he wins… he's all right (as a chess player)," Soares said. "We made a board…I numbered the squares… I just yell out set (piece) to number and he just moves the piece to that number. "

Aside from the chess match, there is a small television located outside his cell that Peterson shared with Soares. Jail officials also allow inmates hygiene items, five books, 10 pictures and legal paperwork in their cells. But mostly, Peterson spends a lot of time quietly lying on his 2-inch-thick mattress.

Although Soares didn't bring it up, there have been reports that say that Peterson receives numerous letters from supporters and female admirers. He also gets three meals a day, a shower every other day and has access to a pay phone.

Peterson only leaves his cell for two 90-minute periods a week in the jail's rooftop exercise yard and also visits from family and his defense team.

Soares said as he grew to know Peterson, he began to feel sorry for him.

"I'm not passing judgment," he said. "I feel sorry for him. I know a lot of people will probably hate me for saying that but I feel that he's caught up in something that's way out of his control and that has taken on a life of its own."

Soares said the two have talked about a lot of things, but not about the double homicide.

"I always talk about my case, but he never has," Soares said. "I can't comment on that (whether or not Peterson is guilty). No way. One thing I'm not going to do is…I'm not going to judge him. I'm the last person in the world to be judging anybody. My opinions about anything concerning him are my opinions and I'm going to keep them to myself."

Recently, Soares said he was moved to a different cell and has lost contact with Peterson.