Robert Jonas will be 80 years old this year. For most of his 27 years in prison, he’s served as an educator, teaching GED and accounting classes.
This year he’s working as a dorm orderly, a sort of retirement if you will. Robert is the only defendant left in prison for his case. He’d like a chance to go home.
Robert was caught up in a reverse sting operation. His co-defendant sentences ranged from four years to twenty. Informants, Robert says, were paid substantial sums of money by the government for their role. Robert paid with his life. One other co-defendant also received a life-sentence — he died in prison in 2014.
In 1966, Robert graduated from Indiana University in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Misdiagnosed with cancer when he was only 25 years old, Robert received grueling radiation treatments for a disease he didn’t have. Ultimately, doctors removed 36 inches of his small bowel and two-thirds of his colon. Realistically, this means Robert can never be far from a bathroom.
“As bad as that is on the outside, here in prison where we are crammed into 2 and 3 man cells, it is a nightmare! You can imagine the humiliation and aggravation I have had to endure.”
Getting to medical appointments is a harrowing experience. In addition to leg-irons, a chain around his waist, handcuffs and black box, armed guards accompany him throughout. “You have two young guys — one with a gun — watching 79-year-old me, all chained up.” He adds wryly, “this is a good example of overkill.”
As a young man, Robert turned to alcohol to deal with the pain and discomfort his health problems caused. As a result, he says, he lost some great jobs and burned a lot of bridges. He hasn’t taken a drink since 1984. He does have a single infraction on his prison record — for raising a cat in his prison cell.
His favorite food is Maine lobster, his dream vacation a trip to Instanbul. Recently, he stayed up all night reading ‘Pillar of the Earth’ by Ken Follett. A Green Bay Packers fan, he loves roller coasters and used to scuba dive. At 79, Robert would really like to spend an evening at home, preferably with cats.