List of longest prison sentences served

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This is a list of longest prison sentences served by a single person, worldwide, without a period of freedom followed by a second conviction. These cases rarely coincide with the longest prison sentences given, because some countries have laws that do not allow sentences without parole or for convicts to remain in prison beyond a given number of years (regardless of their original conviction).

  This color indicates cases where imprisonment is still ongoing

Prisoners who served more than sixty years[edit]

Name Sentence start Sentence end Sentence duration Country Description
Charles Fossard 1903 1974 70 years, 303 days  Australia Homeless French Australian recluded in the J Ward mental asylum in Ararat, Victoria after murdering an elderly man and stealing his boots. Died while still incarcerated at the age of 92,[1] making this the longest served prison sentence in the world.
Francis Clifford Smith June 7, 1950 ongoing[2] 70 years, 51 days  United States Oldest prisoner in Connecticut. Sentenced to death for the murder of a nightwatchman during a robbery at a yacht club in July 1949, his sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1954, only two hours before his scheduled execution.[3] Smith is currently imprisoned in the Osborn Correctional Institution.[2]
Paul Geidel Jr. 1911 1980 68 years, 245 days  United States Longest-serving prison inmate in the United States whose sentence ended in release. Incarcerated from 1911, aged 17 and released 1980 at 86. He died in a nursing home in 1987, aged 93.
John Phillips July 17, 1952 ongoing 68 years, 15 days  United States Has been longest serving prisoner in North Carolina since at least 1991.[4] Convicted for the rape of a five-year-old girl.[5]
Joseph Ligon December 18, 1953 ongoing 66 years, 227 days  United States The oldest juvenile lifer in the US, Ligon at age 15 was sentenced to life without parole for murder, a mandatory sentence at the time.[6] Ligon first rejected a resentencing and parole offer in 2016.[7] Ligon was again resentenced in 2017 and immediately eligible for parole but refused it, pending his appeal. Ligon contends that he should be resentenced to "time served" and released, so he can cut all ties to the justice system.[6]
Johnson Van Dyke Grigsby 1908 1974 66 years, 123 days  United States After killing a man in a bar fight he was sentenced to life in prison for murder, he was denied parole 69 times before he was released at age 89. Returned to prison voluntarily, citing difficulty finding a job, but left again in 1976. Died in 1987, aged 101.
William Heirens 1946 2012 65 years, 181 days  United States Known as the "Lipstick Killer". Reputed to be the longest surviving prisoner in Chicago. Died in prison.
Walter H. Bourque Jr. 1955 ongoing 64 years, 234 days  United States Longest serving prisoner in New Hampshire. Serving a sentence of 99 years and six months for the axe murder of a four-year-old girl when he was 17.
Warren Nutter 1956 ongoing 64 years, 173 days  United States Youngest man ever sentenced to death in Iowa, when he was 18 years old, for the murder of a patrolman during a gas station robbery.[8] Sentence commuted to life in prison in 1957.[9]
Clarence Marshall 1950 2015 64 years, 70 days  United States Longest-serving prisoner in Michigan. Sentenced to life in prison on one count of armed robbery and another of unarmed assault "with intent to rob and steal". He was paroled in 2015.
Richard Honeck 1899 1963 64 years, 44 days  United States Aged 22, Honeck was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a former school friend. He was paroled after 63 years and one month. He died in 1976, aged 97.
Howard Christensen 1937 2001 64 years  United States Sentenced to life without parole for the murder of a teacher in 1937, when he was 16, along with a 17-year-old accomplice who hanged himself in prison in 1943. His sentence was commuted to 200 years in the mid-1970s. He was paroled in 2001 and died in 2003, aged 82.[10]
Charles Edret Ford 1952 2016 64 years  United States Longest serving prisoner in Maryland. Ford, a black man, was convicted of murder by an all-white jury in 1952, when he was 19. He was granted retrial in 2015, citing an unconstitutional trial and continued ineffective assistance of counsel who failed to inform him of his right to appeal. He was released to a nursing home.[11]
Oliver Terpening 1947 2010 63 years, 125 days  United States When he was 16, Terpening shot a 14-year-old school friend and the boy's three sisters, aged 16, 12, and 2. Prosecutors theorized that Terpening wanted to rape the oldest and that he killed the others when they surprised him, while Terpening claimed that he only wanted to know how it felt to kill somebody, and that he had found the experience disappointing. Died in prison.[12]
"Old Bill" Wallace 1926 1989 63 years  Australia Imprisoned for shooting a man in an argument over a cigarette in a cafe of Melbourne. Died a month before his 108th birthday, still in prison, incarcerated in J Ward. Listed in Guinness World Records as the oldest prisoner in world history.[13]
Hugh Alderman 1917 1980 62 years, 192 days  United States Longest serving prisoner in Florida. Escaped twice in 1919 and 1924. Moved to a mental hospital in 1927, where he died in 1980, aged 86.
Howard Unruh September 6, 1949 October 19, 2009 60 years, 1 month, 13 days  United States Mass murderer who killed 13 people and injured three in Camden, New Jersey. Recluded in a mental hospital without trial or conviction until he died aged 88.
Clifford Hampton 1959 2019 60 years  United States Longest serving Juvenile lifer in Louisiana, resentenced due to Montgomery v. Louisiana and paroled in April 2019.[14]

Prisoners who served between fifty and sixty years[edit]

Name Sentence start Sentence end Sentence duration Country Description
Raymond L. Shuman June 13, 1958 February 3, 2018[15] 59 years, 7 months, 20 days  United States Longest serving prisoner in Nevada. Jailed for the robbery and murder of two men while he and his partner (who was the one that pulled the trigger) were AWOL from the US Navy. Set another prisoner on fire in 1973 due to a dispute about leaving a window open. Died in 2018.
Harvey Stewart 1951 1957 59 years  United States Longest-serving prisoner in Texas at the time of his third parole in 2011. He was convicted the first and third time for robbery, and the second time, for murder.[16][17][18]
1958 1984
1986 2011
Chester Weger April 4, 1961 February 21, 2020 58 years, 323 days  United States Convicted for the murder of a woman in Starved Rock State Park in 1960. Granted parole November 21, 2019 however he was not released until February 21, 2020.[19]
Jesse Pomeroy December 1874 September 29, 1932 57 years, nine months  United States Teenage serial killer nicknamed "The Boy Fiend", who tortured nine younger children and killed two in Boston, Massachusetts. Sentenced to death when he was 15 years old, this was changed to life in solitary confinement after two consecutive governors refused to sign his death warrant. The solitary confinement was lifted in 1917, and he died in 1932, still in prison.
Booker T. Hillery 1962 ongoing 57 years, 274 days  United States Longest serving prisoner in California. Originally sentenced to death but changed to life in prison in the 1970s. Appealed, was retried and found guilty again in 1986.
Hans-Georg Neumann 1963 ongoing 57 years, 63 days  Germany Abducted and shot a young couple at a lovers lane. Longest serving prisoner in Germany and European Union.
Henry Montgomery 1963 ongoing 56 years, 303 days  United States Shot and killed a police officer in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the age of 17. He was sentenced to death but in 1966, the Louisiana Supreme Court annulled the verdict after finding he had not received a fair trial due to public prejudice. In 1969, he was again convicted of murder, which triggered an automatic sentence of life without parole. In 2016, his life sentence was vacated and he was remanded for resentencing. He has been denied parole twice.
Leotha Brown 1964 ongoing 56 years, 213 days  United States Longest serving prisoner in Louisiana serving a life sentence for murder.[20]
Mehmet VI 1861 1918 56 years  Ottoman Empire Kept in the Seraglio and the Kafes from his birth to his accession to the throne, aged 56. He was both the last Ottoman prince to be ritually imprisoned by his family and the one who was imprisoned for the longest time.
Joe Carr 1941 1997 56 years  United States Longest serving prisoner in Kansas. Convicted of murder for strangling a newborn and tossing his body in the Arkansas river. Carr refused to apply for parole until he was released, aged 79.
James R. Moore 1963 ongoing 56 years  United States Pled guilty to the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced to "natural life." Last parole application rejected in 2019.[21]
Sheldry Topp 1963 2019 56 years  United States Oldest juvenile lifer in Michigan. He was originally sentenced to life without parole for a murder he committed at age 17 in 1962 but his sentence was later lowered to 40 to 60 years due to Montgomery v. Louisiana because of his age at the time of the crime. He was also given 10 years worth of good behavior credits which allowed him to be released in February 2019 without having to go through a parole hearing.[22][23]
William Holly Griffith 1915 1971 55 years, 359 days  United States Longest serving prisoner in West Virginia, known as "the bestial killer" and the "leading bad man" in the state. Sentenced to life for murdering the police chief[24] who was going to arrest him and a constable[25] during his escape to Ohio, where he was arrested. Tried to flee prison several times, the last one when he was already suffering from cancer. Died in prison.
Jerry Lee Hansen May 20, 1965 May 11, 2019 55 years, 73 days  United States Longest serving prisoner in Nebraska. Jailed for the murder of his parents in law and the attempted murder of his then wife. Disarmed a corrections officer and shot his ex-wife a second time in 1973, paralyzing her for which he received two 20 years to life sentences, he has been eligible for parole since 1977 and has been turned down, time after time. last denied in 2009 with another hearing scheduled for January 2020 and committed suicide on May 12, 2019 at the age of 82 in the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution.[26][27][28]
András Toma 1945 2000 55 years  Soviet Union
 Russia
Believed to be the last POW of World War II. Toma, a Hungarian soldier, was captured in southern Poland in 1945 and later interned in a mental hospital of rural Kotelnich, in Russia. His documents were lost and he was listed as KIA by the Hungarian Army. He was returned to Hungary after a Czech linguist realized that he spoke an eastern dialect of the Hungarian language. Died in 2004, aged 79.
John Straffen 1952 2007 55 years  United Kingdom Multiple child killer. Sentenced to death for his third murder, which took place after he escaped from a mental hospital; the sentence was commuted to life in prison. Longest-serving prisoner in the United Kingdom at the time of his death.
Frank Wetzel 1957 2012 55 years  United States Sentenced to two life sentences for the murders of two highway patrolmen when he was driving to Mississippi to break his brother out of death row. His brother was executed two months later. Wetzel died of Alzheimer's disease when he was 90 years old, still in prison.[29]
Allen Smith c. December 1953 September 7, 2009 c. 55 years  United States A former reform schooler who shot an elderly couple during a robbery north of Newberry, Michigan some days before his 17th birthday. His sentence was commuted for medical reasons in August 2009, only 12 days before his death. He died before he could be released.[12]
Earl Perry June 11, 1943 March 23, 1998 54 years, 9 months, and 12 days  United States Convicted of the April 1943 rape and strangulation of Theresa "Chi-Chi" Williams, age 4. Perry, who was 17 when he committed the murder, was sentenced to life in prison on June 11, 1943.[30] He was denied parole in 1958,[31] 1963,[32] 1968[33] and 1974.[34] Died in prison on March 23, 1998.[35]
Antonio "Tony" Wheat 1965 ongoing 54 years, 274 days  United States Longest serving prisoner in Washington state for the murder and robbery of a gas-station worker.[36] Next parole hearing in 2020.
Garold Rheinschmidt 1960 May 1, 2015 54 years, eight months, 12 days  United States Longest serving prisoner in Wisconsin at the time of his death.[37]
Richard Robles 1965 ongoing 54 years, 244 days  United States Perpetrator of the Career Girls Murders
Tony Rawlins December 28, 1955 April 17, 2010 54 years, three months, 20 days  Australia Convicted of the "Kissing Point mutilation murder", strangling a 12-year-old girl who rejected his advances. Was Australia's longest serving prisoner when he died, with 18 parole applications being rejected.
Willie Gaines Smith 1960 2014 54 years, 105 days  United States Longest serving prisoner in Kentucky. Rejected parole because no nursing home accepted him and he would receive better medical care in prison but was released on medical parole in 2014. Died at the age of 76 in December 2014.[38]
Machal Lalung 1951 2005 54 years  India Originally arrested for "causing grievous harm," Lalung was interned in a psychiatric hospital until he was declared "fully fit" in 1967. However, he was mistakenly transferred to prison rather than released, and forgotten about until 2005. He was released without ever being tried or convicted, aged 77.[39]
Robert Stroud 1909 1963 54 years  United States Known as "the Birdman of Alcatraz" for the research on bird diseases that he conducted alone in his cell, although he actually did it at Leavenworth Penitentiary before he was moved to the federal prison in Alcatraz Island.
Giulio d'Este 1506 1559 53 years Ducado de Modena (antes de 1830).svg Ferrara Illegitimate son of Ercole I d'Este, duke of Ferrara. Organized a failed plot aimed at eliminating his half-brothers duke Alfonso I d'Este and cardinal Ippolito d'Este. Sentenced to death, his penalty was commuted to life imprisonment. Freed by his grandnephew Alfonso II d'Este in 1559 at the age of 81.
Peter Woodcock 1957 2010 52 years, 328 days  Canada Declared not guilty by reason of insanity and recluded in a mental hospital for the murder of three young children. Murdered a fellow patient in 1991. Died in 2010, still interned.
William MacDonald May 1963 May 12, 2015 52 years  Australia English-born serial killer known as "the Sydney Mutilator." Oldest and longest serving prisoner in New South Wales at the time of his death.
Jimmy Ennis November 9, 1964 2016 52 years  Ireland Longest held prisoner in Ireland. Sentenced to life in prison for fatally bludgeoning a farmer in County Cork following a dispute. He had just finished a prison term for attacking a woman with a hatchet.[40] He refused to apply for release until he was freed in 2016, aged 87.[41]
Alfred "Alf" Vincent 1968 ongoing 52 years, 0 days  New Zealand Man held in preventive prison for the longest time in the world: sentence was imposed for assaulting five boys. Suspected of having molested between 200-500 children.[42] He is held in Rimutaka Prison's high dependency unit due to suffering from dementia and a heart condition.[43]
Winston Moseley July 7, 1964 March 28, 2016 51 years, 291 days  United States Murderer of Kitty Genovese. Died in prison.[44]
Sirhan Sirhan 1969 ongoing 51 years, 106 days  United States Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy. Originally sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted in 1971 to life in prison. Parole has been denied 15 times.
Ian Brady 1966 2017 51 years, 10 days  United Kingdom Perpetrator of the Moors murders together with his girlfriend, Myra Hindley, who died in prison in 2002. Longest serving prisoner in the United Kingdom at the time of his death.
Walter Kelbach 1967 2018 51 years  United States Spree killer who murdered five people and raped two women in Utah in December 1966 with his cousin Myron Lance. Walter died in August 2018 of natural causes.[45]
Alfred Tai 1963 2014 51 years  United States Longest serving prisoner in Hawaii. Paroled at the age of 72.[citation needed]
Theo H. 1960 2011 51 years  Netherlands Involuntarily committed when he was 17 after a sex offense in which the victim was a minor. He relapsed twice while on leave, in 1967 and in 1985. Died in 2018.[46]
Bobby Beausoleil April 18, 1970 ongoing 50 years, 105 days  United States Member of the Manson Family originally sentenced to death for the murder of Manson's former associate Gary Hinman in 1969. The Family perpetrated the 10050 Cielo Drive and Tate-LaBianca murders in a failed attempt to make police believe that Beausoleil was wrongfully accused. He was recommended for parole in January 2019, but was denied by the Governor of California.
John Weber 1926 1976 50 years  United States Originally an immigrant from Austria-Hungary, Weber was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the fatal shooting of his 18-month old daughter, which he served in Columbus' Ohio Penitentiary. In 1972, Governor John J. Gilligan commuted his sentence to murder in the second degree. This made him eligible for parole, but he never benefited from it. Was the oldest prisoner in the United States at the time of his death, only a few months from his 100th birthday.[47][48]
Hugo Pinell 1965 2015 50 years  United States Nicaraguan national sentenced to life in prison for rape. See below.
John Franzese March 1967 June 23, 2017 50 years  United States Italian-American mobster of the Colombo crime family who was sentenced to 50 years in prison for masterminding several bank robberies. He broke parole and was returned to jail six times, the last time when he was 92 years old.[49] At the time of his release at the age of 100, he was the oldest federal prisoner in the United States and the only centenarian ever.
Bobby Gene Griffin May 27, 1968 June 6, 2018 50 years  United States Juvenile lifer in the state of Michigan who at the age of 16 along with three other male teens forced their way into Minnie Peapples’ Benton Harbor home seeking money. Griffin beat, stabbed and sexually assaulted Peapples, who bled to death after the teens fled for which Griffin was sentenced to life without parole until he was resentenced on July 10, 2017 to 40 to 60 years and he was paroled on June 6, 2018.[50]
George Williams July 1970 June 24, 2020 50 years  Jamaica Arrested and charged with murder when he was 20 years old, never saw trial because he was found mentally unfit to plead. Released after all charges were dropped.[51][52]

Prisoners who served between forty-four and fifty years[edit]

Name Sentence start Sentence end Sentence duration Country Description
Heinrich Pommerenke June 10, 1959 December 27, 2008 49 years, six months, 17 days  West Germany, Germany Serial killer known as "the Monster of the Black Forest." Was Germany's longest serving prisoner when he died.
Søren Mathiasen 1876 1925 49 years, 180 days  Denmark Farmer sentenced to life of hard labor in Horsens State Prison for killing the moneylender he was indebted to. Paroled.
Leslie Van Houten March 21, 1971 ongoing 49 years, 133 days  United States Member of the Manson Family involved in the LaBianca murders. Recommended for parole three times, but denied all by the government of California who considers her a "danger to society" with "potential for future violence".
Patricia Krenwinkel March 21, 1971 ongoing 49 years, 133 days  United States Member of the Manson Family involved in the Cielo Drive and Tate-LaBianca murders. Next parole hearing in 2022.
John Sam Hall 1967 February 2, 2016 49 years  United States Juvenile lifer in the state of Michigan who at the age of 17 robbed and murdered a 73-year-old man for which he was sentenced to life without parole, However, due to Miller v. Alabama in 2012 and then Montgomery v. Louisiana in 2016. he was resentenced to 25 to 60 years and released in 2016.[53][54][55]
Betty Smithey 1963 2012 49 years  United States Longest serving female prisoner in the United States at the time of her parole. She was originally sentenced to life without parole for a murder in Arizona.[16]
"Crazy Jimmie" Williams 1948 1998 49 years  United States Longest serving prisoner in Arizona at the time of his death, aged 66.
Melvin Thomas Mott March 5, 1965 February 19, 2014 48 years, 11 months, 14 days  Australia Originally sentenced to two and a half years for child sex offences and escaping from custody, he was convicted of the 1964 murder of a 13-year-old girl in 1968 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Longest serving prisoner in Queensland when he died, having had 14 parole applications rejected.
Tex Watson October 21, 1971 ongoing 48 years, 285 days  United States Second in command of the Manson Family and leader in the Cielo Drive and Tate-LaBianca murders.
Carlos Eduardo Robledo Puch 1972 ongoing 48 years, 179 days  Argentina Serial killer. Longest serving prisoner in South America.
Albert Paul March 20, 1972 ongoing 48 years, 134 days  United States Sentenced to life for murder and Maine's longest serving prisoner.[56][57]
Bruce M. Davis April 21, 1972 ongoing 48 years, 102 days  United States Member of the Manson Family involved in the murders of Hinman and Donald Shea. He was recommended for parole in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2017; every time the sitting Governor ordered a review or reversed the decision.
Harry Roberts November 15, 1966 November 11, 2014 47 years, 361 days  United Kingdom Convicted of the murder of three policemen in Shepherd's Bush, London. Evaded police for 96 days before being arrested.
Richard Palumbo October 25, 1972 April 19, 2020 47 years, 177 days  United States Convicted of a June 26, 1971 First Degree murder, Unarmed Robbery and Breaking & Entering a Building With Intent. Died in prison on April 19, 2020 at age 71.[58][59][60][61]
William Pierce, Jr. February 1973 ongoing 47 years, 182 days  United States Robber turned serial killer who murdered nine people in South Carolina after being paroled in 1970.
Herbert Mullin August 19, 1973 ongoing 46 years, 348 days  United States Serial killer who claimed to have murdered 13 people as human sacrifices to prevent earthquakes in California.
Edmund Kemper November 8, 1973 ongoing 46 years, 267 days  United States Serial killer convicted of murdering eight women, including his mother. He was previously institutionalized as a juvenile for murdering his grandparents.
Charles Manson April 22, 1971 November 19, 2017 46 years, 6 months, 27 days  United States Leader of the Manson Family.
Pietro Acciarito May 29, 1897[62] December 4, 1943[62] 46 years, 6 months, 5 days  Italy Attempted assassin of Umberto I of Italy. Sentence spent entirely in solitary confinement.
Rudolf Hess May 10, 1941 August 17, 1987 46 years, 3 months, 7 days  United Kingdom
 West Germany
Deputy Führer of Nazi Germany who flew solo to Scotland to negotiate a peace treaty but was instead taken prisoner. He was later tried for "crimes against peace" and sentenced to life in prison, which he served in Spandau. Committed suicide at the age of 93. He was the last prisoner of Spandau prison, and after his suicide, it was demolished and rebuilt as a shopping centre for British forces.
Juan Corona January 18, 1973 March 4, 2019 46 years, one month, 14 days  United States Mexican serial killer nicknamed "the Machete Murderer", who killed 25 itinerant workers and buried them in fruit orchards of northern California. Died in 2019.
John Joseph Kenny June 18, 1974 ongoing 46 years, 44 days  Ireland Bludgeoned an elderly woman with a candlestick during a break-in, when he was 19 years old. He has been allowed outside prison several times and returned every single one after breaching the terms of his release.[63]
Joanna I of Castile 1509 1555 46 years  Castile
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Spain
Recluded in a nunnery of Tordesillas until her death, following orders of her father Ferdinand II of Aragon.
Walerian Łukasiński 1822 1868 46 years Military ensign of Vistula Flotilla of Congress Poland.svg Congress Poland
 Russia
Polish military officer suspected of harboring anti-Russian sentiments, kept in prison even after completing his original sentence of 14 years. Sentence spent entirely in solitary confinement
Elmer Wayne Henley July 16, 1974 ongoing 46 years, 16 days  United States Accomplice of serial killer Dean Corll in the Houston Mass Murders, found guilty of committing seven of them. The crimes were discovered when Henley shot Corll in self defence.
Richard Phillips 1973 2018 45 years, 7 months  United States Sentenced to life without parole for a fatal shooting in Detroit in 1971. The case was "based almost entirely" on false testimony by one witness. Exonerated due to the intervention of the University of Michigan's Innocence Clinic and awarded $1.5 million by the state in 2019.[64]
Iwao Hakamada September 11, 1968 March 27, 2014 45 years, 197 days  Japan Spent entirely in death row. See below.
Sundiata Acoli 1974 ongoing 45 years  United States Former Black Panther Party finance minister and Black Liberation Army member sentenced to life plus 30 years for the murder of a State Trooper during a shootout at the New Jersey Turnpike. He was accompanied by Zayd Shakur, who was killed in the shooting, and Assata Shakur who was also imprisoned for the murder but escaped in 1979 and was granted political asylum in Cuba.
Amy Archer-Gilligan 1917 1962 45 years  United States Nursing home proprietor who poisoned her two husbands and a number of her tenants to cash on their life insurance. Originally sentenced to death, the sentence was changed to life in prison after a retrial in 1919. Served her sentence in a mental hospital from 1924 to her death.
Clarence Carnes 1943 1988 45 years  United States Originally sentenced to life in prison for murder when he was 16 years old, he was sent to Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in 1945 after two unsuccessful escape attempts. He took part in the "Battle of Alcatraz" the following year, but was recaptured and was sentenced to a further 203 years in prison. He was granted parole in 1973, but it was revoked twice before he died in prison from AIDS-related complications.
Kim Sŏn-myŏng 1951 1995 45 years  South Korea Longest held of the "unconverted long-term prisoners," North Korean POWs captured during the Korean War who refused to renounce Juche. Kim Sŏn-myŏng was born in the south but joined the north, and was sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison; his family denounced him and had him declared dead in 1975. Released to North Korea.
Albert Woodfox 1971 2016 45 years  United States Black Panther imprisoned for robbery and later put in solitary confinement for the murder of a prison guard in 1972. See below.
Kamal Thabet Abdul Majid 1973 2018 45 years  Egypt Sentenced to 60 years for the murders of his uncle and grandfather, and of his father's murderer (whom he met in prison) when he was 20 years old. Pardoned.[65]
David Owen Brooks 1975 May 28, 2020 45 years  United States Second accomplice of Dean Corll. Died in prison; his last parole was denied in 2015.[66]
Joe Remiro June 27, 1975 ongoing 45 years, 35 days  United States Last remaining incarcerated member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, serving a life sentence for one murder.
Wilbert Jones February 6, 1973 November 15, 2017 44 years, 9 months, 9 days  United States Sentenced to life for sexual assault, case later reviewed and he was exonerated in 2018.[67]
Otis Johnson 1970 August 2014 44 years, 8 months  United States Member of the Fruit of Islam, the paramilitary wing of the Nation of Islam, sentenced to 44 years in prison for the attempted murder of a police officer when he was 25, and 8 months for a shoplifting charge when he was 17.[68][69][70]
Ronald DeFeo Jr. November 21, 1975 ongoing 44 years, 254 days  United States Perpetrator of the Amityville family murders.
Magdelaine Chapelain 1679 1724 44 years, six months  France Parisian fortune-teller involved in the Affair of the Poisons. Died in prison.
Thomas Hagan 1966 March 19, 2010 44 years  United States Assassin of Malcolm X. Since 1988 he was on a work release program under minimum security. Paroled.
Sharon Wiggins 1969 2013 44 years  United States Longest juvenile female serving life without parole. Sentenced to death for a fatal bank robbery when she was 17 years old, commuted to life in prison without parole in 1972.

Longest spells in solitary confinement[edit]

The sentence duration refers to the time spent in solitary confinement, regardless of time spent in normal prison before or after. Death row prisoners, who are usually also held in isolation, are not included.

Name Sentence start Sentence end Sentence duration Country Description
Walerian Łukasiński 1822 1868 46 years Military ensign of Vistula Flotilla of Congress Poland.svg Congress Poland
 Russia
See above.
Hugo Pinell 1969 2015 46 years  United States Murdered by another inmate two weeks after his solitary confinement was lifted.
Pietro Acciarito May 29, 1897 December 4, 1943 46 years, six months, 5 days  Italy See above.
Albert Woodfox 1972 2016 44 years  United States Placed in solitary confinement for the murder of a corrections officer. Released in 2016.
Robert Stroud 1916 1959 42 years  United States Imposed for murdering a prison guard in McNeil Island.
Jesse Pomeroy 1875 1917 41 years  United States See above.
Woo Yong-gak 1958 1999 41 years  South Korea Captured during a North Korean commando raid after the armistice. Released to North Korea in 2000.
Herman Wallace 1972 2013 41 years  United States Placed in solitary confinement for the murder of the same corrections officer as Woodfox. Released in 2013, when he had advanced liver cancer, but re-indicted two days later. Died the next day before he could be arrested.
Mark David Chapman 1981 ongoing 38 years, 234 days  United States Placed in solitary confinement after pleading guilty to murdering John Lennon on December 8, 1980.
Robert Maudsley 1983 ongoing 37+ years  United Kingdom Serial killer imprisoned in 1977. Placed in a specially-built solitary cell after killing three other prisoners.
Thomas Silverstein October 22, 1983 May 11, 2019 35 years, 201 days  United States Called "America's most isolated man." Placed in solitary confinement for the murder of two inmates and a guard during a prison riot. Died May 11, 2019
Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova 1768 1801 33 years  Russia Countess convicted of killing 38 female serfs by beating and torturing them to death. Imprisoned at Ivanovsky Convent in Moscow; for the first 11 years, she was chained in a basement dungeon without a window and only given a candle during meals.[71]
Man in the Iron Mask 1669? 1675 c. 29 years  France A mysterious prisoner kept in a solitary cell with double doors (to mute conversations) and forced to wear a black velvet mask at all times, following direct orders of Louis XIV. Much debate exists about the identity of the prisoner (variously called Marchioly or Eustache Dauger) and the reason of his confinement. After his death, myths arose claiming that the prisoner wore a full-headed iron mask, rather than velvet, and that two Musketeers of the Guard were posted with orders to shoot him if he removed it. The solitary spell was interrupted between 1675 and 1680, when the man in the mask served the also imprisoned Nicholas Fouquet, Marquis of Belle-Îlle as his valet.
1680 1703
Robert Hillary King 1972 2001 29 years  United States Placed in solitary confinement for the same murder as Woodfox and Wallace, until his original conviction was overturned.
Salvatore "Totò" Riina January 15, 1993 November 17, 2017 24 years, 306 days  Italy Reputed "boss of bosses" of the Sicilian mafia, nicknamed "The Beast". Believed to have ordered over 150 murders in Italy. Died in prison, aged 87.[72][73]
Yolanda Saldívar 1995 ongoing 24 years, 280 days  United States Found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez on March 31, 1995. Placed in solitary confinement after receiving numerous death threats from fellow inmates.
Mary Mallon March 27, 1915 November 11, 1938 23 years, 229 days  United States First known case of asymptomatic carrier of typhoid. Quarantined for life in New York City's North Brother Island after refusing to have her gallblader removed or stop working as a cook.
Ian Manuel 1993 2016 23 years  United States Tried as an adult and sentenced to life for non-fatally shooting a woman during a robbery, when he was 13 years-old. His sentence was reduced after it was ruled that imprisoning minors who had not killed anyone for life was unconstitutional. Released.[74][75]
Luis Felipe 1997[76] ongoing 23 years, 169 days  United States Leader of the New York chapter of the Latin Kings. Convicted and placed in solitary confinement for ordering several murders when he was already in prison for other offenses.
Frank De Palma February 3, 1992 March 11, 2014 22 years, 36 days  United States Kept in solitary for attacking a guard while serving a 42+ years stay in a Nevada prison for murder and other offenses. Released in 2018.[77]
Leonora Christina Ulfeldt 1663 1685 22 years  Denmark Daughter of Christian IV of Denmark. Confined to a small cell in the Blue Tower of Copenhagen Castle by her brother, Frederick III, accused of treason. Released after 22 years by Christian V, she joined a convent where she died in 1698, aged 76.
Russell Melvin Shoats 1992 2014 22 years  United States Member of the Black Unity Council, Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of a police officer. Shoats spent his time in solitary in a 7-by-12 foot cell, always illuminated by lights, for 23 or 24 hours a day.
Anthony Gay 1994 2016 22 years  United States Originally imprisoned in Illinois for stealing a dollar bill and a hat, was added time to his sentence for disciplinary reasons until he served 24 years and almost all in solitary.[78]
Rudolf Hess 1966 1987 21 years  West Germany Became the only prisoner in Spandau Prison after all the others completed their sentences or were pardoned.
Clayton Fountain 1983 2004 21 years  United States Marine sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his staff sergeant in 1974, and placed in solitary after murdering three other prisoners and one corrections officer. Converted to Catholicism and was accepted as a lay brother of the Trappist monks posthumously.
Giovanni Passannante 1879 1899 20 years  Italy Attempted assassin of Umberto I of Italy. Locked in a dark, small cell below sea level in Portoferraio, Isle of Elba. His conditions became a scandal after they were revealed and he was moved to an asylum in Montelupo Fiorentino, where he died in 1910.
John T. Downey 1952 1973 20 years, 3 months and 14 days  China CIA agents captured in Manchuria after their plane was shot down by Chinese forces during the Korean War; the mission was part of a failed attempt to establish an anti-Communist guerrilla in mainland China. Released after the thaw of Chinese-American relations. There was a three-week break in their solitary confinement in 1955, when they were allowed to interact with the crew of a downed American B-29.[79]
Richard Fecteau 1971 19 years
Viktor Ivanovich Ilyin 1969 1988 19 years  Soviet Union Attempted assassin of Leonid Brezhnev. Released in 1990.
Clarence Carnes 1946 1963 17 years  United States Placed in solitary for his part in the "Battle of Alcatraz". The measure ended with the closing of the prison.
Christopher Scarver 1994 2010 16 years  United States Placed in solitary confinement for the double murder of Jeffrey Dahmer and Jesse Anderson. All three men were serving life sentences for murder at the time of the crime.

Longest spells on death row[edit]

These prisoners were sentenced to death rather than prison, but their execution was stalled for a prolonged time due to different reasons.

Name Sentence start Sentence end Sentence duration Country Description
Iwao Hakamada September 11, 1968 March 27, 2014 45 years, 197 days  Japan Granted a retrial and found innocent after it was determined that the evidence used to convict him the first time was forged.
Raymond Riles 1976 ongoing 44 years, 179 days  United States Longest held prisoner in death row in Texas. His execution was stayed several times since 1980, for different reasons. He was later diagnosed with mental problems and is as a result considered not mentally fit to be executed, but won't be moved out of death row either. He tried to commit suicide in 1985 by setting his jail cell on fire.
Richard Gerald Jordan 1977 ongoing 43 years, 180 days  United States Sentenced to death for the abduction and murder of a woman in Mississippi.[80]
Douglas Stankewitz October 12, 1978 May 3, 2019 40 years, 203 days  United States Oldest death row inmate at California's San Quentin State Prison, a member of the Mono nation sentenced to death for the abduction and murder of a 22-year-old woman. Retried twice and sentenced to death on both occasions.[81][82] Retried a third time and sentenced to life in prison without parole.[83]
Cesar Fierro February 14, 1980 December 19, 2019 39 years, 307 days  United States Mexican national arrested in Ciudad Juarez for the murder of a cab driver in El Paso and convicted in spite of no existing physical evidence linking him to the case. Formerly held on death row in Huntsville, Texas. His sentence was changed to life in prison on December 19, 2019.[84][85]
Gary Alvord April 9, 1974 May 19, 2013 39 years, 40 days  United States Schizophrenic sentenced to death in Florida for the murder of three women over the price of one game of pool. Died of a brain tumor after several delays.
Lawrence Bittaker March 24, 1981 December 13, 2019 38 years, 264 days  United States One of the two "Toolbox Killers" who kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered five teenage girls in southern California during a period of five months in 1979. Died of natural causes in 2019. His partner in crime, Roy Norris, was sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole after 30 years in exchange for testifying against Bittaker.
Albert Greenwood Brown February 3, 1982 ongoing 38 years, 152 days  United States Pedophile who abducted and murdered a 15-year-old on her way to school while being on parole for molesting another girl in California. Brown was scheduled for execution on September 30, 2010, but it was put on hold due to lethal injection supplies being unavailable at the time.
Carey Dean Moore June 20, 1980 August 14, 2018 38 years, 55 days  United States Sentenced to death for the murders of two taxicab drivers in Nebraska. He was executed by lethal injection on August 14, 2018. He was Nebraska's longest serving death row inmate.[86]
Thomas Eugene Creech January 1, 1983 ongoing 37 years, 213 days  United States Sentenced to death for killing a fellow prisoner while incarcerated in Idaho 1981. Creech had been previously on death row for another murder, but his death sentence was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 1977 after appeal.
Ronald Allen Smith March 22, 1983 ongoing 37 years, 132 days  United States Only Canadian on death row in the United States and one of two death row inmates in Montana. Smith, along with another man, murdered two Native American men who offered them a ride while the former were under the influence of LSD. His accomplice accepted a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, while Smith refused and requested capital punishment for himself.
Doug Clark March 24, 1983 ongoing 37 years, 130 days  United States One of the couple known as the "Sunset Strip Killers", who raped and murdered six women in Los Angeles during the summer of 1980. His partner, Carol M. Bundy, died in prison in 2003.
Sadamichi Hirasawa 1950 1987 37 years  Japan Confessed under torture to have committed the Teikoku Bank Incident of 1948, a mass poisoning of Imperial Bank employees that killed ten people. Hirasawa was never executed because no Justice Minister wanted to sign his death warrant, as all believed that he had been falsely charged. However, he wasn't granted a retrial either, and he was still in death row when he died from pneumonia in 1987.
George Banks June 22, 1983 ongoing 37 years, 40 days  United States Spree killer sentenced to death for the murders of twelve people in the 1982 Wilkes-Barre Shootings, including his five children. Although his insanity defence was rejected at the trial, he was later ruled incompetent to be executed in 2004 and 2010.
Michael Morales June 30, 1983 ongoing 37 years, 32 days  United States Raped and murdered a 17-year-old girl who was in a love triangle with Morales's cousin and another man in California; his cousin was sentenced to life in prison as inductor. Though Morales did not deny his guilt, doubts about the evidence presented in his trial mounted as his scheduled execution for February 26, 2006 came near. The execution was postponed indefinitely due to medical professionals refusing to participate in executions, as their presence is obligatory under California law.
David Earl Miller March 17, 1982 December 6, 2018 36 years, 264 days  United States Sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of 23-year-old intellectually disabled woman, Lee Standifer. Miller was executed by electric chair in December 2018. He was Tennessee's longest serving death row inmate.[87]
Brandon Astor Jones October 17, 1979 February 3, 2016 36 years, 109 days  United States Sentenced to death for his involvement in the felony murder of a convenience store manager in Georgia. Was retried and sentenced to death again in 1997 because the jurors at the first trial had brought a Bible into the deliberation room. Oldest prisoner in Georgia at the time of his execution, aged 72.
Tomiyama Tsuneki 1967 2003 36 years  Japan Died of kidney failure in prison, at the age of 86.[88]
Richard Delmer Boyer December 14, 1984 ongoing 35 years, 231 days  United States Fatally stabbed an elderly couple.
Ronald Watson Lafferty May 7, 1985 ongoing 35 years, 86 days  United States Self-proclaimed prophet from Utah who claimed to have been divinely mandated to murder a number of people starting with his sister-in-law and her baby daughter. A death sentence was overturned on the grounds that he was not competent to stand trial, but he was deemed competent, retried, and sentenced to death again in 1996. Lafferty has requested to be executed by firing squad.
Kevin Cooper May 21, 1985 ongoing 35 years, 72 days  United States Career burglar sentenced to death for the murders of four members of the same family and attempted murder of two others during a home invasion in Chino Hills, California in 1983, shortly after he escaped from prison. Cooper was scheduled for execution on February 10, 2004, but it was postponed to allow DNA testing of the crime scene and getaway vehicle that did not exist at the time of his conviction. The results of both tests supported the case against Cooper.
Romell Broom October 24, 1985 ongoing 34 years, 282 days  United States Abducted, raped, and strangled a 14-year-old girl returning from a football game in East Cleveland, Ohio, and also attempted to kidnap two of her friends. Survived an attempted execution by lethal injection on September 15, 2009 because the executioners couldn't find a suitable vein; he is next scheduled for June 17, 2020.
Edmund Zagorski March 27, 1984 November 1, 2018 34 years, 219 days  United States Sentenced to death by the state of Tennessee for the 1983 murders of two men, and was executed by electrocution in 2018.
Douglas Stewart Carter December 27, 1985 ongoing 34 years, 218 days  United States Killed an elderly woman during a burglary in Provo, Utah. Assigned lethal injection.
Gerald Ross Pizzuto, Jr. May 1, 1986 ongoing 34 years, 92 days  United States Beat a Marsing, Idaho woman and her nephew to death in July 1985.
Tiequon Cox May 7, 1986 ongoing 34 years, 86 days  United States Member of the Crips sentenced to death for the hired mass murder of five relatives of former NFL player Kermit Alexander in their home. Cox was 18 at the time of the crimes.
Edward Harold Schad December 27, 1979 October 9, 2013 33 years, 286 days  United States Oldest prisoner in Arizona death row at the time of his execution by lethal injection, aged 71. Sentenced to death for the murder and robbery of a 74-year-old man in 1978, while he was in parole for another murder ten years prior.[89][90]
Sakae Menda March 23, 1950 July 15, 1983 33 years, 114 days  Japan After being arrested for stealing rice, Menda was tortured until he confessed to the murders of a Buddhist priest and his wife, which he did not commit. He was not represented by a lawyer, no physical evidence linking Menda to the murders was ever produced, and the testimony of witnesses backing his alibi was deliberately kept out of his trial. In 1979 he was granted a retrial and in 1983 he was acquitted, becoming the first person in the History of Japan to be released from death row.
Jack Alderman June 1975 September 16, 2008 33 years  United States Murdered his wife with a wrench in Georgia. Executed by lethal injection.
Bobby Joe Long July 25, 1986 May 23, 2019 32 years, 333 days  United States Known as "The Classified Ad Rapist" or "The Adman Rapist", kidnapped, raped and killed at least ten women in Tampa Bay Area in Florida during an eight-month period in 1984. He was executed on May 23, 2019 by lethal injection.
Ralph Leroy Menzies March 23, 1988 ongoing 32 years and 301 days  United States Abducted and strangled a female gas station attendant in Kearns, Utah. Requested death by firing squad.
David Carpenter May 10, 1988 ongoing 32 years, 83 days  United States Known as the "Trailside Killer", killed at least ten hikers and attacked another one in state parks near San Francisco. He was attributed to a 1979 murder after a DNA match in December 2009.
David Allen Raley May 24, 1988 ongoing 32 years, 69 days  United States Security guard who abducted, raped, beat, and stabbed two teenage girls in the abandoned Carolands mansion where he worked, before throwing them in a landfill. One of his victims died and the other survived.
Ronald Gray June 29, 1988 ongoing 32 years, 33 days  United States Convict held for the longest time ever on the US Military death row, a serial rapist and murderer who committed his crimes while stationed in Fort Bragg as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Robert Brian Waterhouse September 3, 1980 February 5, 2012 31 years, 155 days  United States Murdered and mutilated a woman in Florida while he was on parole from a life sentence for murder.[91]
Henry McCollum 1983 September 2, 2014 31 years  United States Longest serving death row inmate in North Carolina. Sentenced for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, while his half-brother was sentenced to life in prison. Both men were exonerated by DNA and released.[92]

See also[edit]

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Other sources[edit]