Inside Jodi Arias' Life In Prison

More than 15 years have passed since the murder of Travis Alexander riveted the nation, and many are still perplexed by the case that garnered so much attention from the media. Alexander was a motivational speaker and salesman who was well-respected amongst his friends, family, and coworkers, which made his murder even more confusing and appalling. In 2008, Alexander, then just 30 years old, was brutally killed by his ex-girlfriend, Jodi Arias, in his Mesa, Arizona home. Following the revelation that Arias was involved in the gruesome murder, surprising details of the former couple's relationship, Arias' obsessive personality, and the circumstances of the crime made her one of the most infamous killers in U.S. history.

Arias' criminal trial was extensively covered by cable news networks, and millions watched as her fate was cemented when she was found guilty of murdering her former lover in cold blood. After she was convicted of the first-degree murder of Alexander in 2013, Arias's sensationalized case was the subject of several podcasts, documentaries, and made-for-TV films, like Lifetime's "Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret." In May 2013, Arias was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Since then, information and details have been leaked about her time in prison that have given a glimpse of what the convicted killer's life is like behind bars.

The crime that made her famous

Jodi Arias and Travis Alexander met at a work conference in Las Vegas in September 2006 and formed an instant connection upon meeting. In addition to being attracted to Alexander's strong work ethic and adventurous nature, Arias was also inspired by Alexander's devout Mormonism and was baptized by him into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in November 2006. After some months of getting to know one another, the couple began dating in February 2007, and the relationship seemed positive at first.

By June 2007, the couple split, but they continued to meet up on a regular basis, which ultimately fostered a toxic relationship between the two. When Alexander began showing interest in other women, Arias grew increasingly jealous and acted out by harassing his love interest, slashing his tires, and showing up at his home unannounced. These actions led many of Alexander's friends to label Arias as obsessive and voice concerns about her turning violent towards him.

On June 4, 2008, days before Alexander was set to leave for a work trip to Cancun with his new girlfriend, Arias showed up at his home. The two took suggestive photos, had sex, and afterward, Alexander began showering. As he showered, Arias took more pictures of him, then violently stabbed him 27 times and shot him in the head. Friends tragically discovered Alexander's body five days later. Though she later tried to testify that she was acting in self-defense, Arias's ultimate guilty verdict changed her life forever, landing her in prison indefinitely.

She received threatening letters and death threats

Following Travis Alexander's murder, Jodi Arias attempted to appear helpful in the investigation and volunteered her fingerprints and DNA to detectives. Despite her efforts, Arias's DNA was all over the crime scene, making her the prime suspect. During her interrogation and subsequent trial, Arias changed her story multiple times. She first claimed that she hadn't seen Alexander on the day of his murder, then alleged that Alexander was abusive and she killed him in the name of self-defense.

Needless to say, due to the overwhelming physical evidence and lack of consistency in her story, a jury found Arias guilty of first-degree murder, and she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in May 2013. Her troubles did not end after her sentencing, however. Details from Arias's inmate file and her own courtroom testimony revealed that she has received a number of death threats in jail from other inmates.

According to the Arizona NBC affiliate, 12 News, one such threat came in the form of a letter addressed to Arias that stated an inmate was going to "put funds on the books of some inmate" to bribe them to harm her. On another occasion, Arias told a corrections officer that an inmate threatened to kill her the same way she killed Alexander. Despite the threats, Arias has remained in close custody in prison and can interact with inmates outside her cell.

One friend claimed her prison resembled a dog cage

Following her conviction in May 2013, Jodi Arias was first placed in the maximum-security Lumley Unit of the Arizona State Prison Complex in Perryville, Arizona. The cells in the Lumley Unit — named in honor of correctional officer Brent Lumley, who was killed by inmates in 1997 — are approximately the size of a Mini Cooper. The Arizona Republic reported that the jail cells are made of solid steel and concrete, and include basics like a sink, toilet, bed, and desk.

In addition to its furnishings, each cell has a slot to receive food and an air vent to communicate with neighboring inmates. During her time in the Lumley Unit, Arias was confined to her cell for 23 hours every day and had zero contact with other inmates, which one friend referred to as resembling a dog cage. In an interview with Radar Online, rapper Kareem "Lefty" Williams explained that Arias was like "a little sister" to him and said the following of his visits with the convict: "When we have our conversation, it is like she is being held in a dog cage ... It looks very inhumane." Arias stayed in the Lumley Unit for two years before she was transferred to a close custody unit, where she is allowed to share a cell with another inmate and socialize with other inmates outside of her cell.

The haircut that led to a disciplinary infraction

Since her infamous time in the spotlight, Jodi Arias has become notorious for extensively caring about her appearance and image. In a number of interviews after her arrest for the murder of Travis Alexander, she was captured carefully applying makeup before she believed the cameras were rolling since makeup products were not often provided to her behind bars. Even when she found out during her police interrogation that she was going to be arrested, Arias went as far as to ask the detective if she could do her makeup before she was handcuffed and booked. 

Outside of being incredibly keen about doing her facial presentation, Arias has also been known for putting effort into the appearance of her hair, which actually has gotten her in trouble in prison. According to 12 News's 2018 report, Arias had a single disciplinary infraction on her inmate file, which detailed an incident in which the convict was frustrated because she was not able to get a haircut from her preferred hairdresser. When the prison official explained this to her, Arias allegedly called the individual an offensive name and was written up for her behavior and poor choice of words.

She flirted to get her way in prison

Before Jodi Arias was convicted of the cold-blooded crime, she was once described as "beautiful," "friendly," and "sweet" by a friend of Travis Alexander, Sky Lovingier Hughes to ABC News. Arias used the same persona and charm that helped her manipulate Alexander in prison, according to former inmates who were friends with her. "The male guards really liked her. But then she flirted a lot," one of Arias' first cellmates, Donavan Bering, told Arizona's Family.

Her actions didn't stop with smiles and winks, though. According to Bering, Arias was openly sexual and would often pose in suggestive positions to get on the good side of both the guards and inmates. "She used her sexuality to get things from other inmates. She flirted with the guards," Bering revealed in the Lifetime documentary "Cellmate Secrets: Jodi Arias" (via Fox News). "She was very sexual. She had no problems talking to the male guards at all." Whether or not Arias's flirtatious efforts worked in her favor remains to be seen, but this behavior does give a glimpse into the depths of how she has attempted to get her way, even in the most restrictive and regimented environment.

A singing contest earned her a Christmas dinner

Among Jodi Arias's many self-proclaimed talents, like her long-held passion for photography, the convict is also skilled in singing, which she put on display while in prison in December 2010. While she was awaiting trial for the murder of Travis Alexander, Arias participated in a Christmas-themed singing contest held by Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of the Maricopa County Jail. Competing against 50 other inmates, Arias sang the traditional Christmas song, "O' Holy Night," in front of a judging panel and ultimately took first place in the competition. The judges included Sheriff Arpaio, a man dressed as Santa Claus, and an Elvis impersonator of sorts.

Arias's rendition of the Christmas classic was deemed so good that it was played across televisions throughout the jail on the holiday. For her efforts, she won a stuffed stocking and a nearly complete Christmas dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, and cookies. The dinner was also shared with Arias's cellmates, which was reportedly a delight given how bad the food at the jail was.

Her commissary purchases included cheese whiz and razors

In prison, inmates can purchase necessities like toiletries, art supplies, and food items from the prison commissary, which is essentially a store inside the facility. Since inmates aren't allowed to have cash or any type of financial holdings in prison, funds are either deposited into their account through earned wages or through friends or family members. While Jodi Arias has been in prison, she has purchased a number of interesting items from the commissary, thanks in part to her own earned wages from her job as a library aide, which she has worked as since 2018.

According to records obtained by Radar Online, some of the items on Arias's purchase list include volumizing shampoo, olive oil shampoo, conditioner, and Irish Spring soap. Perhaps one of the most surprising purchases on her list was a pack of 10 disposable razors. Given the gruesome nature in which Arias murdered Travis Alexander by stabbing him 27 times, it wouldn't be far-fetched to be cautious around Arias with such items. Nonetheless, she was able to obtain the razors, as well as snack foods like trail mix, sardines in oil, jalapeno cheese whiz, and smoked almonds, among other items.

She actually enjoys some of the food in prison

The meals in prison are often considered some of the most stomach-churning food out there. Designed to meet the very basic nutritional needs of each prisoner and made in bulk, prison food has the potential to be decent or downright terrible. Jodi Arias, in contrast to the overwhelming opinion held by many inmates, has shared that the food in prison is pretty average and compared it to hospital food when talking to Kareem "Lefty" Williams, in that, "it's not bad, it's just not great."

In the 2016 recorded phone conversation obtained by Radar Online between Arias and Williams, she revealed that dinners typically consist of cold sandwiches, while meals on the weekend are prepared hot. "We had chicken fajitas here tonight. Really good; A big old pile of caramelized onions, some bell peppers, like, all the works," she said during the phone call.

Breakfasts also include biscuits and gravy, while lunches consist of peanut butter sandwiches with fruit. For holidays, Arias, like her fellow inmates, sometimes receive special meals. For example, Radar Online reported that for Christmas dinner in 2019, Arias got a meal complete with "roast beef, brown gravy, mashed potatoes, bread dressing, vegetable medley, and a dinner roll."

She tattooed her fellow inmates and sells her art

While in prison, Jodi Arias has taken up a number of different hobbies to pass the time, which include tattooing her friends and making art. According to an interview for Inside Edition with Arias's former cellmate, Tracy Brown, the convicted killer would use crushed-up lead from a pencil, mascara, and a makeshift needle to tattoo other inmates and make money while serving her sentence. The tools and supplies needed to conduct the forbidden tattoo sessions were never discovered by prison guards because Brown alleged that Arias's flirtatious and charming personality made them look the other way.

In addition to the tattoos Arias designed, she also created several pieces of hand-drawn original artwork. The inmate has a website, Art by Jodi Arias, with a shop for interested buyers to purchase prints and postcards of her completed art pieces. The pieces include nature landscapes, portraits, animals, and more. Prices range from $28 to $39, and the money from the sales is reinvested into Art by Jodi Arias, donated to nonprofit organizations, and put toward legal actions like appeals.

What Arias's life is like today

June 2024 will be the 16th anniversary of Travis Alexander's death, and while the victim will forever be 30 years old, Jodi Arias continues to get older in prison. Following her 2013 sentencing, Arias was ordered to pay Alexander's family $32,000 to cover legal fees, air fares, and hotel costs. The convict will turn 44 years old in July 2024 and will spend the rest of her life behind bars, living with the consequences of her actions. She works as a library aide and continues to make artwork that is sold online. 

In the media, Arias was the subject of a 2013 Lifetime movie, "Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret," and a 2021 Discovery+ documentary, "If I Can't Have You: A Jodi Arias Story," and endless TV crime specials. She has also received support from individuals who believe she is innocent. In 2019, news outlets reported that Arias had a boyfriend, Benjamin Ernst, whom she tried to marry so they could secure contact and visitation privileges that she lost in 2016.

Alexander's family has remained out of the spotlight since the sensationalized trial came to an end. Friends of Alexander, Chris and Sky Hughes, wrote and published a book in his memory, "Our Friend Travis: The Travis Alexander Story," in 2015.