Dec. 14, 2009— -- Amanda Knox's prison cell is situated behind two secure doors, one a series of bars and the other "a big metal thing" with a small window.
When Associated Press reporter Patricia Thomas was in Capanne prison outside Perugia, Italy, Sunday and saw Knox, "They were passing food through the bars so the inmates could eat inside their cell, which seemed sort of sad to me."
Thomas provided a description of Knox to "Good Morning America" today of a young, timid woman who was so scared after her murder conviction that the female prison guards physically held her during the night to comfort her.
Knox, 22, also appears to be trying to not give in to despair and told Thomas she has applied to work in the prison laundry room to help pass the time and wants to complete her college degree while in prison.
"She said one of her big problems now is passing the time in prison…she is trying to work it out with her professors back in the states so she can finish her university degree," Thomas said.
Knox was studying languages at the University of Washington and was spending a semester in Perugia in November 2007 when her roommate Meredith Kercher was murdered. Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted earlier this month of sexual assault and murder in Kercher's death. Knox was sentenced to 26 years and Sollecito was given 25 years. A third person, Ivory Coast native Rudy Guede, was convicted in an earlier trial and given a 30-year prison sentence.
At one point Knox was studying five languages, including German and Chinese. Knox's mother, Edda Mellas, told ABC News, "She wants to take up French now. We are working with the UW [University of Washington] to set up classes."
If she had not been arrested for murder two years ago, Know would have graduated by now.
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A correspondence course, however, will take some time. "She can't communicate by e-mail. It has to be done by letter," Thomas said.
Thomas toured the prison with two Italian legislators and she was surprised by Knox's appearance.
"I was quite surprised. She seemed shy, timid and vulnerable. I've seen her on various occasions in the courtroom and she seemed more confident. But this is a girl that just got a 26-year sentence. Maybe it makes sense that this is not a good moment for her," Thomas told "GMA."
Amanda Knox Says She Was 'Treated Well' By Court Personnel
She said Knox was "excited to hear somebody speaking English to her."
"The first thing she said was she was scared," Thomas said. "It was clear that she was scared about spending most of the next 26 years in prison. She said that she is counting on her family and her lawyers, who have told her to be tranquil, to be serene, and to be hopeful. And so, she said that's what she's trying to do."
Knox's father Curt Knox told the BBC that they are waiting for "the motivation behind the verdict. ... That will allow us to finish the appeals application and get that submitted."
Knox's lawyers are waiting for the judge to release a written decision on the jury's reasoning for convicting Knox and for the 26-year sentence. The judge has 90 days to file the report.
Since being sent to Capanne prison a small controversy erupted when an Italian member of Parliament visited Knox and later said that Knox told him that her trial was "correct." Knox's family strongly disputed that she ever said that.
Thomas said today that the two Italian legislators she was with asked Knox about her earlier comments on the trial.
"She said, 'I thought I was treated well,'" Thomas reported. "I don't think she was treated well in terms of the verdict or what happened with the police. But I think she thought that she was at least treated respectfully by the people involved, by the lawyers and by the judge."
Rules of the prison visit forbade them to discuss the trial and Thomas said that while she and Knox spoke in English, "the prison guards interrupted me and said, 'You're not speaking about the trial, are you?'"
Prison Guards Held Know to Comfort Her After Conviction
Knox said that she felt "horrendous" the night that the verdict was delivered. "She said the prison guards did come in to hold her and make her feel better. She said the other prisoners were good to her," Thomas said.
The reporter said the prison is "extremely clean." Knox's cell, which she shares with another American who has been sentenced on drug charges, is small. "It had a little bathroom with a door, a bidet, a sink, a shower.... better than some of the things I've seen at summer camp or boarding school."
The women inmates are allowed to go to a hairdresser once a week.
The prison is a new facility, just opened in 2005. The women's ward has an infirmary, an entertainment room with a pool table and ping-pong table, and a library. There is also a small chapel. Outside there is a little playground for children with benches and toys because there are cells specifically for women with children. Currently there are two women in Capanne with children.
Thomas said that when the tour of the prison ended, she passed by Knox's cell again.
"When I walked back later, she was sitting on her bed reading several pages of handwritten pages. She looked up at me. And she looked slightly more confident at that moment. She smiled and waved and said, 'Ciao.'"
ABC News' Nikki Battiste and Ann Wise contributed to this report