Former prisoner overwhelmed while ordering his first meal as a free man

Just hours after walking out of the Bonneville County Courthouse a free man, Chris Tapp shared his first meal with some of the people who helped him win his freedom

Judy Rybak is a “48 Hours” producer. Learn more about Chris Tapp’s story and the investigation into the murder of Idaho teen Angie Dodge in “The DNA of a Killer.”

Just hours after being freed from 20 years in prison, Chris Tapp was sitting in one of Idaho Falls’ finest restaurants, eating his first steak as a free man, surrounded by loved ones and supporters. To most of us that sounds like heaven, right?  To Tapp it was overwhelming. All the sounds, smells and people were making his head spin. One day he was Inmate No. 56265 in the Idaho State Correctional Center, and the next he was trying to choose a side dish from six different options.

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Chris Tapp enjoys a steak and freedom after 20 years behind bars

CBS News

Imagine spending two decades behind bars, where you have no choices at all. You are told when to wake up, what to wear, where you can and cannot go, what you can and cannot eat, and when you must go to bed. You have not even opened or closed a door on your own since 1998.

Now imagine you are suddenly, finally free. Free to go anywhere, do anything and eat anything you want. You are sitting at dinner ordering your own meal, and must choose a side dish from a list of six different options— waffle fries, garlic fries, sweet potato fries, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes or broccoli. After some squirming, he decided on the garlic fries -- but it was clear to all that what seems normal to us was overwhelming to a man, who just the day before, had no choices at all.

As a bottle of steak sauce is passed down the table to Tapp, he was asked if that was even an option in prison. He answered, yes, but it costs 35 cents a packet at the canteen (like the ketchup packets we all grab in handfuls at fast food chains). When you are living on $200 a month, Tapp explained, 35 cents is a lot of money for a little steak sauce.

As Chris Tapp makes his way, he will most likely be overwhelmed by the many choices ahead of him. But it was clear from his first supper that he has a lot of support, as he decides what to do with the rest of his life.