Top 10 Oldest Prisoners in the World
Photo: Oldest

While it might be difficult to picture someone who is old enough to be a grandparent as a criminal, the sad reality is that many prisoners are senior citizens, especially in the United States. Regardless of how you may personally feel about jailing anyone over 65, all of the people on this list committed punishable crimes.

Nearly all of the world’s oldest prisoners died in jail or were released when they were too frail to carry out the rest of their sentence. A few of them are still alive, and one of these old prisoners is actually still serving time and may survive long enough to move to the top of the list.

List of top 10 oldest prisoners in the world:

1. Brij Bihari Pandey (1910 – Unknown)

2. Bill Wallace (1881 – 1989)

3. Theodore Sypnier (c. 1909 – December 2010)

4. John “Sonny” Franzese (February 6, 1917 – Present)

5. Francis Clifford Smith (September 1, 1924 – Present)

6. John Bunz (1919 – December 17, 2013)

7. Lucille Keppen (May 29, 1914 – April 2012)

8. Charles Fossard (1882 – 1974)

9. Johnson Van Dyke Grigsby ( February 1886 – May 18, 1987)

10. Paul Geidel (April 21, 1894 – May 1, 1987)

Paul Geidel (April 21, 1894 – May 1, 1987)

Oldest Age While Imprisoned: 86 years old

Country of Origin: Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Last or Current Prison: Fishkill Correctional Facility in New York (started out at infamous Sing Sing)

Time Served: 1911 – 1980 (68 years, 245 days)

Top 10 Oldest Prisoners in the World
Photo: Oldest

Until someone else breaks his record, Paul Geidel currently holds the record for longest prison sentence served in the United States and was even put into the Guinness Book of World Records. Geidel was in prison for over 68 years and had to be convinced to leave – he was granted parole in 1974 but didn’t want to be released.

The reason he ended up in Jail was that he was convicted of second-degree murder in 1911 at the age of 17. He was sentenced to life in 1911 and was released from prison in 1980. Meaning he was in prison for 68 years and 245 days. Paul Geidel Jr was 17 when he entered that prison and was released at the age of 86. He later died in a nursing home in 1987, at the age of 93.

Johnson Van Dyke Grigsby (c. February 1886 – May 18, 1987)

Oldest Age While Imprisoned: 89 years old

Country of Origin: Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA

Last or Current Prison: Indiana State Penitentiary

Time Served: 1908 – 1974 (66 years, 123 days)

Top 10 Oldest Prisoners in the World
Photo: LaPorteCountyLife

Johnson Van Dyke Grigsby, like a few of the others on this list, served one of the longest prison sentences ever in the world (his record has been surpassed by Francis Clifford Smith, who is also on this list and still in jail). Grigsby spent over 66 years in jail after he was convicted of second-degree murder in 1908. There are some conflicting stories over what exactly happened when Grigsby stabbed a man named James Brown to death in a saloon over a card game. Regardless of who instigated the fight that led to Brown’s death – Brown, who was white, reportedly hurled racial slurs at Grigsby, who is African American – Grigsby got a life sentence.

In jail, Grigsby was a model prisoner and spent his time reading the Bible. Unfortunately, Grigsby spent a large part of his time in jail under psychiatric observation in a ward for the criminally insane despite never exhibiting signs of mental illness. After his release at age 89, Grigsby’s story was covered by the media and Johnny Cash even wrote a song about him called “Michigan City Howdy Do.”

Charles Fossard (c. 1882 – 1974)

Oldest Age While Imprisoned: 92 years old

Country of Origin: France – immigrated to Australia where he committed his crime

Last or Current Prison: J Ward of Ararat Lunatic Asylum (now the Melbourne Polytechnic’s Ararat Training Centre )

Time Served: 1903 – 1974 (70 years, 303 days)

Charles Fossard, a French immigrant living in Australia at the time of his crime, is not only one of the oldest prisoners ever, but Fossard also holds the records for longest prison sentence ever served. Fossard was locked up in the J Ward of Ararat Lunatic Asylum for nearly 71 years before he died at the age of 92.

This man was sentenced to prison in 1903 after he murdered an elderly man and stole his boots, he was arrested and sentenced to life in prison. Charles Fossard was a homeless French Australian man and has now become the longest inmate ever. Being in prison from 1903 to 1974. Making that 70 years and 303 days in prison before he died at the age of 92.

Lucille Keppen (May 29, 1914 – April 2012)

Oldest Age While Imprisoned: 93 years old

Country of Origin: Minnesota, USA

Last or Current Prison: Shakopee Correctional Facility

Time Served: 2003 – 2007

Top 10 Oldest Prisoners in the World
Photo: Pioneer Press

Keppen pleaded guilty to first-degree assault for Sept. 15, 2002, shooting of Stephen Flesche. At the time, Keppen was living alone in a Minneapolis senior high-rise apartment complex, and Flesche, who was then 63, was her neighbor. The two became friends, but the relationship soured.

Keppen, a Chicago native who used to go target shooting with her late husband, shot Flesche in the back with a .38-caliber handgun. Flesche suffered a collapsed lung and some limited mobility.

John Bunz (c. 1919 – December 17, 2013)

Oldest Age While Imprisoned: 94 years old

Country of Origin: Amherst, New York, USA

Last or Current Prison: Wende Correctional Facility

Time Served: 2010 – 2013 (sentenced to 17.5 years)

Top 10 Oldest Prisoners in the World
Photo: NY Daily News

Although John Bunz was sentenced to nearly 18 years in prison, he was only in jail for a few years as he died at the age of 94. Senior citizens do not often end up in prison, but Bunz landed in jail after he murdered his 89 year old wife in early 2010. Bunz hit his wife in the head 30 times with a hammer and pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter.

Before murdering his wife, Bunz had been a law-abiding citizen and his sudden turn to violence will always remain a mystery. After he realized what he had done, Bunz attempted to commit suicide – police reports show that Bunz had struggled with depression and had attempted to kill himself twice before. Bunz spent his time in jail bedridden in the medical unit of Wende Correctional Facility before he died in late 2013.

Francis Clifford Smith (September 1, 1924 – Present)

Oldest Age While Imprisoned: 94 years old

Country of Origin: Connecticut, USA

Last or Current Prison: Osborn Correctional Institution

Time Served: 1950 – Present (68 years, 103 days and counting)

Although Francis Clifford Smith is currently the oldest living prisoner still in jail, not much public information about the man exists. Smith is serving a life sentence at the Osborn Correctional Institution for murdering a nightwatchman named Grover Hart on July 23, 1949. At the time Smith was only 24 years old and has now spent almost all of his adult life behind bars, reported Five Minutes Spare.

He has currently been in prison for 70 years and 7 days and will continue to stay there until they let him out. Smith is now in the Osborn Correctional Institution.

John “Sonny” Franzese (February 6, 1917 – Present)

Oldest Age While Imprisoned: 100 years old

Country of Origin: Born in Naples, Italy – raised in New York City, New York, USA

Last or Current Prison: OFederal Medical Centre in Devens, Massachusetts

Time Served: Several sentences but last one from 2010 – 2017 (originally sentenced in 1967)

Top 10 Oldest Prisoners in the World
Photo: IndyStar

Franzese was the second-in-command of the Colombo crime family in New York City until well into his 90s and was described by prosecutors as one of the Mafia's most fearsome killers.

He was born on 6 February 1917, in the Italian city of Naples, the youngest of 19 siblings. He grew up in Brooklyn, where his father ran a bakery. After dropping out of high school, Franzese worked at the bakery before being drafted into the army in 1942. He was discharged later that year due to his "pronounced homicidal tendencies", although he blamed this on a misunderstanding: he had simply wanted to "kill" the enemy rather than do kitchen duties.

Theodore Sypnier (c. 1909 – December 2010)

Oldest Age While Imprisoned: 101 years old

Country of Origin: New York, USA

Last or Current Prison: Groveland Correctional Facility

Time Served: 2000 – 2010 (was briefly released in 2009 but went back)

Top 10 Oldest Prisoners in the World
Photo: VnExpress

Before his death in late 2010 at 101 years old, Theodore Sypnier was the oldest American prisoner. Sypnier was a pedophile who had a long history of sexually abusing children. His first conviction was in 1987 and unfortunately, he was only given three years probation for sex abuse. The first time Sypnier actually went to jail was in 1994, but again his sentence was short and he only served one year for sexually abusing a minor.

Sypnier’s last conviction was in 2000 after he committed violent sexual abuse on two young sisters the year before. In 2009, despite several objections from judges, prosecutors, and anyone that knew him, Sypnier was released to a halfway house. Sypnier was returned to jail a few months later after he showed no remorse or intentions to change his ways. According to Rev. Terry King, executive director of Grace House (the halfway house Sypnier was staying at), “[Sypnier] remained adamant that he was going to continue his behavior of molesting children. As a father myself, I’m glad to see him back in jail.”

Bill Wallace (1881 – 1989)

Oldest Age While Imprisoned: 107 years and 11 months (died one month shy of 108th birthday)

Country of Origin: Australia

Last or Current Prison: J Ward of Ararat Lunatic Asylum (now the Melbourne Polytechnic’s Ararat Training Centre )

Time Served: 1926 – 1989 (63 years)

In 1926, Bill Wallace was suspected of murdering a man in a café in Melbourne. The man entered Waterloo Café in Kind Street and sat down to light up a cigarette. Smoking was a regular part of life back then and people could freely smoke pretty much anywhere they wanted to. Wallace who hated smoking at the time told him to put it out. After he refused, Wallace waited for him outside in the street and shot him. A policeman who was nearby heard the shot and ran to the scene of the crime and arrested Wallace. He refused to answer any questions or talk about the crime. As there were no witnesses and no admission to the crime, Wallace was found unfit to plead and was declared insane by 2 Doctors. He was sentenced to be held at J Ward at the Governor’s pleasure. It means that the Governor could hold Wallace as long as he wanted to, and could release him once he was convinced that he was cured, reported LLIFS.

Wallace however refused to speak to the Doctors so was never released. He spent the rest of his life institutionalized. 57 Years at J Ward and 7 at Aradale until his death at the age of 108. It is thought that he had a wife and family at the time and he was said to have possibly made arrangements with figures in the underworld to care for them, but Wallace never spoke of them again.

Brij Bihari Pandey (c. 1910 – Unknown)

Oldest Age While Imprisoned: 108 years old

Country of Origin: India

Last or Current Prison: Gorakhpur Jail

Time Served: 2009 – 2011 (arrested in 1987 and trial lasted over two decades)

Top 10 Oldest Prisoners in the World
Photo: Quora

Released in 2011 at the age of 108, Brij Bihari Pandey is the oldest prisoner ever in the world. Although Pandey technically only served a two-year sentence, he has been in jail since 1987 after he was arrested for the murder of four people. Pandey’s trial lasted for more than two decades and he was finally given a life sentence in 2009. However, Pandey was released in 2011 following concerns of his failing health, Oldest cites.

Before he committed his horrendous crime, Pandey was a priest and had dreamed of becoming the mahant (chief priest) of Maharajganj’s Jagannath temple. Another man named Ramanujdas was chosen to become the next mahant instead, and Pandey snapped. A fight broke out between Pandey and his supporters and those in favor of Ramanujdas. Three other men, along with Ramanujdas, and Pandey and 15 other men (mostly Pandey’s nephews and other family members) were arrested. While there was no update on his condition, Pandey most likely died not long after he was released.

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