Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family

Charlie in Prison

Charles Manson prison photo
Charles Manson prison photo

Self-styled guru and one time leader of the Manson family, he is serving a life sentence for murder after his original death penalty was commuted.   He is currently being held in California's Corcoran State Prison. Although Manson, who turns 67 in November 2001, has been in prison for the last 33 years, his notoriety has not diminished as he has the dubious distinction of having received more mail than any other prisoner in the United States prison system.

According to a report on the Access Manson website, one of the many such sites dedicated to the subject, Charles Manson is currently under "disciplinary custody" in the prison's Security Housing Unit, known as "The Hole."   He has been housed in the unit since February 2000 after he allegedly threatened prison staff. Being housed in the Security Housing Unit means Manson is kept isolated in his cell 23 hours a day, forbidden to interact with other prisoners and kept handcuffed while being moved within the prison.

According to a recent letter Manson sent to the website, he is due to be released from the unit in February 2002.

Manson is no stranger to the harsh conditions of the Security Housing Unit having spent eight stretches there for various offenses. The first was in 1989 when he was transferred to Corcoran from San Quentin State Prison after guards found a bullet in one of his visitor's pockets during a routine search.

During that time his period of detention was extended for "destruction of state property" when he allegedly tore a telephone receiver from the wall unit and "assaulted" a prison officer.   The period was later extended to five years after he was accused of plotting to assassinate the President of the United States.

Following his release in May, 1994 he was transferred to the prison's Protective Housing Unit (PHU) and was allowed contact with other inmates and restricted privileges.

Three months later he was returned to "The Hole" pending an investigation of another alleged plot to assassinate the President.   No charges were laid and he was released after three weeks.

Manson managed to stay out of trouble until March 1995 when he was charged with narcotics possession.   Once again his period of detention was extended for allegedly threatening staff.   In June 1995 he returned to the PHU for over a year until he was given a further two weeks detention for threatening a prison staff member with a chair.

In March 1997 he was charged with "conspiracy to distribute narcotics" and transferred to Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, one of the toughest institutions in the country.   During this period the media reported that Manson was the kingpin of a multi-million dollar drug distribution empire.   After serving 14 months he was transferred back to PHU at Corcoran.

Also in 1997, Manson's parole hearing was videotaped and broadcast by Court TV.   It was his ninth hearing.   As before, parole was refused on the grounds that Manson "would pose an unreasonable risk and danger to society and a threat to public safety if released from prison."

In response, Manson stated:

"I accept this decision. That's cool. What I'd like for you to do in your own minds personally, everybody that has a personal mind of their own, could possibly consider that the longer that you let this conviction stand, and this little Helter Skelter scheme of the District Attorney to give his particular reality over into the play, that's going to be the reality that they're perpetuating. That's not the reality that I'm perpetuating. I'm not saying that I wasn't involved. I'm saying that I did not break man's law nor did I break God's law. Consider that in the judgments that you have for yourselves. Good day. Thank you."

Seven months later he was back in "The Hole" once again, charged with further "illegal business dealings" and served another two months.

During the following eight months in PHU, he was placed on "restricted status" for refusing to conform to prison regulations and had his visits and phone calls restricted.

As of August 2002, Manson continues to shuttle back and forth between "The Hole" and the PHU.

Manson's most recent and tenth parole hearing was April 24, 2002. He refused to attend it — allegedly because he insisted upon not attending the hearing shackled and the prison would not allow him to attend without handcuffs. No one was surprised when the board refused to grant him parole. The next hearing will be in 2007.


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