Top 7 Oldest Prisoners In The World

The annals of history are replete with tales of resilience, endurance, and the indomitable human spirit. Within the confines of correctional facilities across the globe, there exist remarkable individuals whose lives have intertwined with the fabric of history itself.

These resilient souls, often in the twilight of their years, bear the weight of a storied past, marked by a spectrum of experiences, triumphs, regrets, and, at times, injustices. Their existence within the walls of prisons is a testament not only to the frailty of the human condition but also to the complexities of the judicial systems that bind society.

Here we would like to share with you the top 7 oldest prisoners in the world based on their oldest age while imprisoned and their interesting stories.

7. Lucille Keppen (93 Years Old - till 2012)

Credit: Pioneer Press

Shakopee Correctional Facility, located in Minnesota, has historically housed female offenders, offering various programs aimed at rehabilitation, education, and vocational training. Lucille Keppen served in this prison for 4 years from 2003 to 2007.

Her confinement marked her as the eldest female prisoner in the United States and potentially worldwide. Keppen assumed this title in late 2002 following an incident where she shot her neighbor, Stephen Flesche, in the back.

During that period, Keppen resided alone because she had outlived her husband and sons. Initially, Flesche had developed a friendship with Keppen, yet their relationship deteriorated over time, leading to Keppen feeling the urge to shoot Flesche.

Fortunately, Flesche survived the incident and did not oppose Keppen's imprisonment despite her advanced age. Following four years of incarceration, Flesche was released. Though the case received no media coverage, an online obituary indicated that Keppen passed away sometime in early 2012.

6. John Bunz (94 Years - till 2013)

Credit: Daily Mail

Wende Correctional Facility, situated in New York, has housed various inmates, including those sentenced for serious offenses. The facility provides different programs and resources aimed at rehabilitation, education, and reintegration into society for eligible individuals.

While John Bunz received an almost 18-year prison sentence, his time behind bars was brief as he passed away at the age of 94. Instances of senior citizens entering prison are rare, yet Bunz found himself incarcerated following the tragic murder of his 89-year-old wife in early 2010. Bunz, having struck his wife in the head 30 times with a hammer, pleaded guilty to the offense.

Before this harrowing incident, Bunz had lived as a law-abiding citizen, making his sudden shift toward violence a bewildering enigma. After the act, Bunz made an attempt to end his own life, as indicated in police reports, highlighting his struggles with depression and prior suicide attempts.

Throughout his incarceration, Bunz remained bedridden in the medical unit of the Wende Correctional Facility until his passing in late 2013. His unexpected turn to violence and subsequent tragic demise leave behind a haunting mystery in the wake of an otherwise unblemished life.

5. Francis Clifford Smith (95 Years - till Present)

Credit: CT Mirror

Francis Clifford Smith was sentenced to prison at the Osborn Correctional Institution in the 1950s. It wasn't until 2020, that Francis became the oldest living inmate still incarcerated.

However, the report has it that he was sent to a nursing home and subsequently granted parole Smith served a life sentence in prison for the murder of a nightwatchman named Grover Hart on July 23, 1949.

Specific details surrounding the murder remain obscure, with uncertainty about whether Smith was the one who discharged the weapon leading to Hart's demise—Smith had two accomplices. Despite this ambiguity, Smith was initially condemned to death, narrowly averting execution after managing to have his sentence commuted.

In 1967, Smith successfully escaped captivity for 11 days during a transfer to a minimum-security prison farm. Following his recapture, he remained out of the public eye until his partial release in 2020.

4. John “Sonny” Franzese (100 Years - till 2020)

Credit: New York Daily News

Among all the prisoners listed, John “Sonny” Franzese stands out as the most notorious one due to his association with the Mafia's Colombo crime family. Despite Franzese completing his last sentence between 2010 and 2017, there have been many records of arrests going back as far as 1938.

During his earlier years, Franzese was involved in multiple offenses including assault, rape, gambling, vagrancy, and disorderly conduct. His final prison term resulted from violating his parole on the original 50-year sentence from 1967, which stemmed from planning multiple bank robberies. His most recent incarceration was due to extortion.

Before completing his entire eight-year sentence at the Federal Medical Centre in Devens, Massachusetts, Franzese held the distinction of being the oldest inmate within the American federal prison system at the remarkable age of 100. His release from prison portrayed him as frail, intending to spend his remaining days with reconciled family members.

Throughout his extensive life, Franzese spent an estimated total of about 40 years behind bars. In 2020, Franzese passed away at the age of 103.

3. Theodore Sypnier (101 Years - till 2010)

Credit: New York Post

Prior to the passing of Theodore Sypnier in late 2010 at the age of 101, he was known for being the oldest American inmate. Sypnier's criminal record revealed a troubling history of sexual abuse towards children. His initial conviction occurred in 1987, resulting in a mere three years of probation for sexual abuse.

Sypnier's first incarceration took place in 1994 when he served a brief one-year sentence for the sexual abuse of a minor. However, his final conviction arose in 2000, following violent sexual offenses against two young sisters committed a year earlier. Despite numerous objections from judges, prosecutors, and acquaintances who knew his history, Sypnier was released to a halfway house in 2009.

However, his return to society was short-lived as Sypnier exhibited no remorse nor displayed intentions to alter his behavior, prompting his swift return to jail a few months later. Reverend Terry King, the executive director of Grace House where Sypnier resided, noted Sypnier's unwavering determination to persist in his harmful behavior, expressing relief at his return to incarceration.

But seeing him back in jail brings a sense of reassurance given Sypnier's unrepentant attitude toward his propensity for harming children.

2. Bill Wallace (107 Years - till 1989)

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Similar to many old prisoners on this roster, Bill Wallace's extensive confinement stemmed from being categorized as criminally insane. Wallace endured a staggering 63-years time in J Ward at the Ararat Lunatic Asylum, a maximum-security psychiatric unit designated for Australia's most mentally disturbed and hazardous individuals.

Wallace's narrative diverges from the conventional as he was technically never charged with a crime or faced a court trial. In 1926, authorities arrested Wallace under suspicion of a homicide at a café in Melbourne. Refusing to engage in any dialogue, Wallace was diagnosed as mentally unsound by medical professionals.
His incapacity to plead resulted in a sentence of confinement in J Ward, decreed by the Governor, who wielded authority to detain Wallace indefinitely. Curiously, Wallace chose never to disclose any information about the crime to doctors, which led to his perpetual detention. 

As Wallace reached his centennial birthday, public outcry petitioned for his release. Despite eventual agreement from the Australian government, Wallace himself declined to depart from J Ward as he felt that he belonged there.

1. Brij Bihari Pandey

Credit: BBC

In 2011, at the remarkable age of 108, Brij Bihari Pandey was released from Gorakhpur Jail making him the oldest prisoner ever incarcerated in the world. Despite serving a technically two-year sentence, Pandey remained in prison from 1987 after being arrested on charges related to the murder of four people.

Pandey's trial endured for over two decades, culminating in a life sentence in 2009. However, his release transpired in 2011, prompted by concerns over his deteriorating health.

Prior to the heinous crime, Pandey held the role of a priest and aspired to assume the position of mahant (chief priest) at Maharajganj’s Jagannath temple. However, when another man named Ramanujdas was appointed as the next mahant instead of Pandey, he reached a breaking point.

A violent altercation erupted between Pandey and his supporters against those favoring Ramanujdas. Subsequently, three other men, including Ramanujdas, were involved in the altercation, leading to the arrest of Pandey, along with 15 other individuals, predominantly comprising Pandey's nephews and other family members. 

Though there was no official update on his health post-release, it is presumed that Pandey likely passed away shortly after his release.


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