“I Spent My Whole Life In Prison”


Most of them were murderers who were sentenced
to life in prison for their crimes. Some managed to get out but not until after
spending decades behind bars. What is the longest time anyone has actually
spent serving a sentence in prison? 5. Johnson Van Dyke Grigsby In 1907, an African-American man named Johnson
Van Dyke Grigsby and a white man named James Brown were playing five card stud poker in
an Indiana saloon. According to the trial transcript, the game
ended when a fight broke out between the two men. “Curses and racial slurs were uttered, and
Mr. Brown pulled a knife on Van.” Grigsby walked away but only to get his own
knife and resume his fight with Brown. He stabbed Brown to death with the knife. According to genealogist Reginald Pitts, Grigsby
received a life sentence after agreeing to plead guilty to second degree murder. At Indiana State Penitentiary in Michigan
City, Grigsby kept to himself and stayed out of trouble. Historian Mike Dash notes that Grigsby spent
a lot of time in prison reading three books: the Bible, an encyclopedia, and a dictionary. Despite his good behaviour, he was denied
parole again and again. Grigsby attracted attention mainly because
of how long he was in prison. After being denied parole 33 times, he was
finally released from prison in 1974. This meant Grigsby served 66 years and 123
days in prison. Grigsby gained some celebrity status for this
feat. One source reports that “Grigsby was named
by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest serving inmate in the country.” Grigsby was also the inspiration of Johnny
Cash’s 1976 song, “Michigan City, Howdy Do,” and Cash even gave Grigsby a colour
television as a gift. It is strange to think that when Grigsby entered
prison in 1908, televisions were not even invented yet, and he was transported to prison
in a horse pulled cart. Given Grigsby’s circumstances, it is understandable
that he initially struggled to adjust to life outside of prison. He even voluntarily returned to prison at
one point but finally left for good in 1976. He lived many more years, passing away in
1987 at the age of 101. 4. John Phillips
One prisoner who has already served more time than Grigsby is John Phillips. Phillips is currently serving a life sentence
at Randolph Correctional Center, a minimum security prison near Asheboro, North Carolina. A 1995 Wilmington Morning Star article describes
Phillips as “poor, mentally retarded and black.” He was initially charged with the first-degree
rape of a 5-year-old African-American girl, but Phillips agreed to a plea bargain that
reduced the charge to accessory before the fact of rape. This lesser charge and Phillips’ “mental
condition” are what saved him from going to the gas chamber. Phillips was just 17 years old when he began
serving his sentence on July 17, 1952. He has been eligible for parole since 1962. He probably could have been released years
ago if he made more of an effort to seek parole, but Phillips does not want to leave. In a 1995 interview, he said, “This is where
my home is at. I’m going to be here until I die.” Phillips’ case manager at the time, Irma
Timberlake, said he also does not want to be placed in a nursing home outside of prison:
“He feels that people that go to nursing homes die, and he feels that would happen
to him.” It is difficult to determine if his attitude
has changed over time because his story has not received much publicity in recent years. Phillips is now 85 years old. On July 17, 2019, he will have served 67 years
in prison. If he remains in prison over the next few
years, he will surpass the time served by the next prisoner on our list, Paul Geidel. 3. Paul Geidel Paul Geidel and Johnson Van Dyke Grigsby were
contemporaries and were convicted of their crimes within just a few years of each other. On July 26, 1911, Geidel murdered and robbed
a guest staying at an upscale New York apartment hotel called the Iroquois. Geidel once worked as a bellhop there, and
he targeted the guest, a 73-year-old widower named William Jackson, because of rumors that
Jackson kept a lot of cash in his room. The rumors turned out to be false. After bashing Jackson in the head and suffocating
him with a chloroform-soaked cloth, he found only a few dollars, a watch, and a stickpin. He pawned the items to buy a new suit, which
he was wearing when the police arrested him. Geidel faced serious consequences for his
failed and brutal get-rich-quick scheme. District attorney Charles Whitman, who happened
to be next door to Jackson’s room at the time of the crime, pushed for the death penalty. Geidel probably would have been executed if
it were not for the mercy of the jury. According to the New York Daily News, the
“jury, citing Geidel’s age, surprised everyone by convicting him of second-degree murder,”
and “he was sentenced to life, with a 20-year minimum.” Like Phillips, Geidel was just 17 years old
when he entered prison in September 1911. He was troubled by mental illness while behind
bars. After spending some time in the infamous Sing
Sing Correctional Facility, he was declared legally insane in 1926 and sent to Dannemora
State Hospital for the Criminal Insane. He remained there until 1972. He was then transferred to a multi-security
level prison called Fishkill Correctional Facility. Shortly after transferring to Fishkill, his
story and long prison sentence caught the attention of the press. While Geidel did not like the press coverage,
it probably helped persuade prison officials to grant him parole in 1974. However, Geidel did not want to leave. Accustomed to life as an inmate, he chose
to stay in prison another 6 years before finally leaving Fishkill on May 7, 1980. At the time of his release, Geidel was 86
years old. He broke Grigsby’s record for the longest
time served by spending 68 years and 245 days in prison. Outside of prison, he lived 7 more years in
a nursing home until his death in 1987. For many years, Geidel held the title of “longest-serving
prison inmate in the United States” until another American prisoner surpassed his time
in prison. 2. Francis Clifford Smith Francis Clifford Smith is currently locked
up at Osborn Correctional Institute in Somers, Connecticut. Racking up a criminal record since the age
of 13, he was 24 years old when he was convicted of the murder of a 68-year-old night watchman
named Grover Hart at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club in 1949. The events that occurred during and after
Smith’s trial were like something out of a movie. According to a Greenwich Times article, one
of his partners in crime, George Lowden, initially testified against Smith but then “recanted
his story on the witness stand, saying he had been forced into it by law enforcement
authorities.” After being sent to prison on June 7, 1950,
Smith “spent four years on death row after his conviction, narrowly averting execution
on seven different occasions.” In 1954, he was literally within hours of
being executed when he received a last-minute reprieve from an unexpected source. Another petty criminal named David Blumetti
“claimed he was the other accomplice” in Hart’s murder. Blumetti’s confession was enough to get
Smith’s sentence commuted to 25 years to life in prison. More dramatic events followed. Disappointed he could not get a new trial,
Smith escaped from prison in 1967 and committed a robbery while on the run that added 3-7
years to his sentence. In the 1970s, his parole was cut short after
a parole violation sent him back to prison. Age did not interfere with his ability to
break prison rules. Even at age 66, he had the strength to assault
another inmate in 1990. However, it was his last infraction requiring
disciplinary action. Smith will celebrate his 95th birthday on
September 1, 2019. Like Phillips, he has lost interest in leaving
prison. One parole official says that he has even
“waived application for parole.” On June 7, 2019, he will have served 69 years
in prison. Smith is now thought to be the longest-serving
prisoner in the United States and the oldest prisoner in the United States. If he stays in prison, he could break the
record for longest prison sentence ever served, which is held by the final prisoner on our
list. 1. Charles Fossard Like Johnson Van Dyke Grigsby, Charles Fossard
was a young man at the beginning of the 20th century. Historian Mike Dash describes him as a “former
sailor who had jumped ship at Sydney” in 1900, and various sources indicate he was
originally from France. Fossard’s spontaneous move to Australia
left him broke and homeless. He was a vagabond when he encountered an old
man named William Ford in Skye, Australia. According to Dash, Fossard murdered Ford “after
Ford turned him away from his home” on June 28, 1903. Two weeks later, the police apprehended Fossard
with his victim’s boots on his feet. Fossard was judged to be insane, so he was
sent to a prison asylum called the Ararat Lunatic Asylum on August 21, 1903. He stayed in its infamous J Ward for the rest
of his life. According to Goldfields Guide, “some of
the most dangerous and deranged men in the state were housed here in horrific conditions.” Despite the bad environment, Fossard kept
on living decade after decade after decade. When Fossard finally died in 1974, he was
92 years old and had spent 70 years and 303 days in prison. Should there be a maximum amount of time someone
can spend in prison? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video
Prisoner Spends 46 Years In Solitary Confinement! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

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