Most Infamous Lives Behind Bars
Crime: Armed robbery, kidnapping and other felonies
Sentence: 33 years
Held at: Lovelock Correctional Center, Lovelock, Nev.
Earliest Release: 2017
• While under medium-security lockdown at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada, the former star running back has found his way back to his true passion: sports. “He is always up and very active,” says his friend Jim Barnett. As the coach of a softball team, Simpson helped his fellow inmates clinch the Lovelock World Series. Denying reports he suffered stroke-like symptoms in May, prison spokesman Steve Suwe says Simpson cleans the gym and works out most mornings after sweeping, mopping and picking up equipment. Barnett says that while Simpson has put on weight, he “still has conditioning.” No matter. Most of Simpson’s athletic-related pursuits these days require little muscle, among them reading golf magazines and watching TV sports in the 6-ft.-by-10-ft. cell. Simpson’s steady stream of visitors has included his daughters Arnelle and Sydney and sons Jason and Justin. Adds Barnett: “He says, ‘I am here to do my time. I’ll make the best of it.'”
Held at: Leath Correctional Institution, Greenwood, S.C.
Earliest Release Date: 2024
• Since being locked up for drowning her two young sons, Smith has hardly been a model prisoner. In 2000 she had sex with two of her guards at a prison in Columbia, S.C., leading to her transfer to nearby Greenwood. There she ran into trouble in 2010 when she was twice found with contraband medication. Her punishment, two years without phone calls or visitors (except religious counselors), pushed Smith to the brink. “In spring 2010 she tried to commit suicide,” says pastor Toni White, who’s been visiting Smith for years. “She cut herself up really badly … She almost died.”
Crime: Two counts of first-degree murder
Sentence: Life without parole
Held at: Mule Creek State Prison, Ione, Calif.
• Lyle Menendez’s 5-ft.-by-9-ft. concrete prison cell is a far cry from the Beverly Hills mansion where he and younger brother Erik killed their parents in 1989, but it still stands out from the rest. “It’s like no other cell here,” says fellow inmate Eugene L. Weems, whose recently released book Prison Secrets chronicles Lyle’s life behind bars. “It’s real colorful … he has shelves, a chessboard-real fancy stuff.” In between shooting hoops, lifting weights and catching bugs for his pet lizard, Menendez receives visits from Rebecca Sneed, a magazine editor he married in 2003 before a dozen friends and family members. Lyle also stays in touch with Erik by letters and remains confident his conviction will be overturned. “He doesn’t believe he’s going to spend the rest of his life here,” says Weems. Until that happens, he keeps a watchful eye on his fellow cons. Says Weems: “They think he’s real arrogant.”
Sentence: Conviction overturned
Held at: Kerrville State Hospital, Kerrville, Texas
Release Date: Indefinite
• The day after she drowned her five children in a bathtub on June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates, suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis, told her attorney George Parnham, “I want to go right to death row.” Instead Yates was sentenced to life and sent to a Texas psychiatric prison, where she spent four years in isolation. “She was a model prisoner,” says Parnham. On appeal in 2006, Yates, a former nurse, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Now committed indefinitely at a low-security state mental hospital in Texas, she takes fitness classes and works in the facility’s garden, library and craft shop, where she makes greeting cards. “Not a day goes by when I don’t think about our precious children,” she writes in a letter, which was read at a Yates Children Memorial Fund conference.
John Walker Lindh
Crime: Helping the Taliban army
Sentence: 20 years
Held at: Federal Correctional Institution, Terre Haute, Ind.
Earliest Release Date: May 2019
• In an old death-row unit of the medium security U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., the 45 or so inmates, most of them Muslims, live in private cells. Though inmates may wander freely among the cells, exercise in a yard and eat with others in the unit, they can’t pray together. And only one inmate may receive a guest at any given time. Lindh’s visitor roster is restricted to his parents and two siblings. During visits, eight hours a month, he is locked in a room, his visitor is locked in an adjoining room, and they talk by phone through a glass partition. “It’s really heartbreaking to not be allowed to hug your own son,” says his father, Frank Lindh, who awaits his son’s call every Wednesday morning. Says Frank: “One thing about John: He never complains.” Instead Lindh talks about his Indiana University correspondence courses in psychology and English and his study of scholarly Arabic works. “He’s like a monk in a monastery,” says Frank. “The hidden blessing is that John and I have this intense dialogue. It’s made us closer.”
Held at: Corcoran State Prison, Calif.
Earliest Release Date: Denied parole for 12th time in April; next hearing set for 2027
He orchestrated some of the grisliest murders in American history, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that Charles Manson isn’t a model inmate. In solitary confinement since October for having an “inmate-manufactured” weapon (prison reps won’t say what), the hippie-cult leader-who masterminded the killing spree that claimed the lives of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969-was a former prisonmate to RFK killer Sirhan Sirhan and Jaycee Dugard abductor Phillip Garrido. But these days he wears shackles to the showers and takes his breakfasts (cereal and oatmeal) solo. It’s lonely, but even Manson knows he’s not your “average inmate,” as he recently told a prison psychologist. “I’m a dangerous man.”
Held at: San Quentin State Prison, Calif.
Two items adorn a wall in his 4-ft.-by-9-ft. death-row cell: a photo of Peterson with his wife, Laci, and a card announcing the imminent birth of their son Conner. Still adamant that he wasn’t behind the murders of both his pregnant wife and their unborn son, Peterson spends his days combing through trial documents, hunting for “inconsistencies” in preparation for his appeal, says pen pal Pat MacGuire. Peterson fills his hours at San Quentin State Prison reading westerns and practicing yoga. Except for visits from family, “he goes about his life,” says prison spokesman Samuel Robinson.