Alejo Santana wanted to go to prison. He asked for it in 2010 after he was arrested for robbing a La Crosse grocery store. He asked again last month after a botched attempt to rob the same store.
This time he got his wish.
Santana, who is 49 and has a schizoaffective disorder, has spent most of his life inside institutions. He was first hospitalized in his native Cuba at age 15, according to court documents.
Two years later, with a wave of refugees, he arrived in Wisconsin, where a string of burglaries and robberies have landed him in prison or a state mental hospital since 1982.
In March 2010, less than two years after his last release, Santana walked into the People's Food Co-op and demanded money while pretending to have a gun. He was quickly arrested and told authorities he did it in hopes of being sent to prison.
"I feel more happy in prison, more free, more comfortable," he said.
He got probation.
One year later, Santana walked into the same store and made the same demand, with similar results.
"I belong in prison," he told a judge last month at a hearing to determine if there was evidence to support the charges. "I want you to send me to prison as soon as possible."
His chance came Thursday in La Crosse County Circuit Court.
Santana, who has a fourth-grade education and did farm and factory work when not locked up, said he wanted the maximum sentence so he could return to prison, where he feels he can get better medical care and an education.
"I expect today to get at least 30 years," Santana told Judge Todd Bjerke.
Bjerke sentenced him to spend 11 years behind bars.
"I don't think I can give you more than that," Bjerke said, noting the circumstances did not warrant the maximum penalty.
Santana thanked Bjerke, his attorney, and the assistant district attorney, who had asked for 10 to 12 years incarceration.
In what he called his closing argument, Santana apologized to the court and the American people "for everything I've done in my life."