During his decades in prison, Charles Manson has repeatedly broken rules, caused trouble

During his more than four decades behind bars, convicted murderer Charles Manson has broken the rules more than 100 times. Here is a sampling. (Jan. 5, 2017)

Share via

During his more than four decades behind bars, convicted murderer Charles Manson — the mastermind behind a gory 1969 Los Angeles killing rampage — has been an unrepentant and incorrigible inmate, repeatedly cited for behavioral problems including hiding cellphones and a hacksaw in his cell.

State corrections officials say Manson, now 82, has incurred more than 100 rules violations since 1971, when he and other members of his so-called family were convicted of killing pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six other people during a bloody rampage in the Los Angeles area during two August nights in 1969.

Over the years, he has been cited for assault, repeated possession of a weapon, threatening staff, and possessing a cellphone, Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said in an email Wednesday.


“Suffice it to say that he cannot be described as a model prisoner,” she said.

Officials have said over the years that he spat in guards’ faces, threw hot coffee at a prison staffer, started fights, tried to cause a flood and set his mattress ablaze.

Suffice it to say that he cannot be described as a model prisoner.

— Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Sources say Manson is now seriously ill. He was taken this week from Corcoran State Prison in the Central Valley to a Bakersfield hospital for an undisclosed medical issue, two sources familiar with the situation said. The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

As an incarcerated man, Manson’s bizarre and violent outbursts were on display even during his 9½-month trial, frustrating authorities and prosecutors. Manson, who was said to relish the attention he received in the packed courtroom, appeared in the courtroom with an X carved into his forehead. (Later, he converted the X into a swastika.)

In June 1970, he was removed from the courtroom after taking on the pose of the crucifixion, bowing his head and extending his arms, refusing to sit down. In October, he jumped from the defense table toward the bench of Judge Charles H. Older, telling the judge: “In the name of Christian justice, someone should cut your head off.”

In January 1971, he was again ejected from the courtroom after punching his attorney. Two months later, he threatened “murder and bloodshed” if he were sentenced to death.


Manson was initially sentenced in 1971 to death for the killings of Tate and six others: Jay Sebring, 35; Voytek Frykowski, 32; Abigail Folger, 25; Steven Parent, 18; and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

But a 1972 ruling by the California Supreme Court found the state’s death penalty law at the time unconstitutional, and Manson’s death sentenced was changed to life in prison with the possibility of parole. He has been denied parole 12 times.

In 1982, while Manson was housed at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, prison guards discovered a hacksaw blade, marijuana and LSD in Manson’s cell. Guards said they found other items in the facility that indicated Manson may have been trying to escape, including nylon rope and a catalog that showed how to order hot-air balloons.

Two years later, Manson was doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze by a fellow Vacaville inmate, who told guards he attacked Manson in retaliation for threats the cult leader made against him for practicing the Hare Krishna faith. Manson was treated for second- and third-degree burns, and his scalp, hair and beard were singed.

In 1985, he tried to smuggle a hacksaw blade into San Quentin State Prison in the sole of his shoe, days after being transferred to that facility from Vacaville.

During his sixth bid for parole in 1986, he described himself in a hearing as a “caged, vicious animal” and said he didn’t like to read and preferred to spend his time making dolls in his cell.


In the decade between his 1981 and 1992 parole hearings, he accumulated 60 prison violations. Parole transcripts chronicling his prison offenses show female officers bore the brunt of his verbal abuse.

Manson has been housed at Corcoran State Prison since 1989. He has obtained illegal cellphones in the facility at least three times, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In March 2009, prison guards found an LG flip phone hidden under Manson’s prison mattress. He made calls and sent text messages to people in California, New Jersey, Florida and British Columbia.

Recordings of Manson’s raspy, high-pitched voice, broadcast by the entertainment news show “Inside Edition,” featured him singing, “I’ve seen the world spinning on fire, I’ve danced and sang in the devil’s choir.”

Prison officials found Manson with a second cellphone, equipped with a camera, in January 2011. Manson obtained an illegal cellphone again in 2016, Thornton said.

After the last cellphone incident, Manson was punished with the loss of 90 days’ “good time” credit toward parole, Thornton said.


In 2014, Manson and Afton Elaine Burton, a 26-year-old Manson devotee, were granted a marriage license, but it expired before the two could marry. She had faithfully visited him in prison for seven years.

Manson’s next parole hearing is scheduled for 2027, when he will be 92.

Twitter: @haileybranson

Twitter: @paigestjohn



Killer Charles Manson’s failing health renews focus on cult murder saga

Op-Ed: Why members of the Manson family still don’t deserve parole after murdering my sister

From the Archives: The famous Manson true crime book, ‘Helter Skelter,’ reviewed in 1974


1:45 p.m.: This article was updated with more information from Terry Thornton.

This article was originally published at 12:55 p.m.