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11 celebrities who have been to jail and come out the other side

Marc Crosby 10th Mar 2015 One Comment

Reading Time: 9 minutes

If you get thrown in the slammer, does that mean your career is over?

Not for these celebrities, who are still very successful and very much in the public limelight, even after spending a couple of years in jail.

If you’ve got a criminal record or you have spent time in prison at some point, this is a great reminder that it doesn’t have to mean the end. There is life – a big life – after jail.


Tim Allen

celebrities who have been to jailCrime: Possession of 1.4 pounds of cocaine and drug trafficking.

Hard time: Allen served over two years in a Minnesota prison.

Tim Allen was arrested at a Minnesota airport in 1978, at the age of 25.

He was caught with more than 650 grams of cocaine which, according to Michigan law, meant he could face life imprisonment.

Thankfully for Allen, he was able to reduce his sentence significantly by supplying details of other drug dealers – meaning he only spent 28 months in jail.

Career after prison: Tim Allen has gone on to have a hugely successful career in TV and film. He is a much-loved actor in America and very popular around the world.

He was the lead in the long-running sitcom ‘Home Improvement’ and has stared in many films including Disney’s ‘Jungle 2 Jungle’ as well as ‘Galaxy Quest’ ‘The Shaggy Dog’ and ‘The Santa Claus’. But arguably his greatest contribution is providing the voice for Buzz Lightyear in all the Toy Story movies, which he continues to do in all it’s various iterations.


Robert Downey Jr.

Crime: Drug offences, drink driving, possession of an unlicensed firearm.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR.Hard time: Downey was sentenced to six months in jail for not undergoing compulsory drug testing in 1997 and a further three years for again missing a required drugs test. He was freed after a year because of the collective time he had spent incarcerated.

Robert Downey Jr was already a big name before his arrests. He was a successful actor and had been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Charlie Chaplin in ‘Chaplin.’

Despite this, he was a drug addict and a drinker and repeatedly got himself into trouble. He was arrested for racing his car whilst drunk, as well as being in possession of drugs and an unloaded handgun.

What cost him the most was the night he wandered into his neighbour’s house, high on drugs, and went to sleep in her child’s empty bed.

For this he was sentenced to three years probation and compulsory drug tests. It was during this time that he missed one of the tests and was given jail time.

Career after prison: Downey eventually managed to get sober – and what a decision it turned out to be!

Mel Gibson, a friend of his, gambled on Downey by paying his insurance bond so he could be in ‘The Singing Detective.’

After a series of successful movies Downey went mainstream and became the star of 2008’s ‘Iron Man’ – a film that was not only hugely successful but also paved the way for what is known as the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ which now dominates the summer blockbuster period.

Downey also played the lead role in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies and gave a comic turn alongside Ben Stiller in 2008’s ‘Tropic Thunder.’

In 2013 he signed the first $100 million contract in movie history to return to the screen as Iron Man and last year he topped the Forbes list of top earning actors.

Getting on the straight and narrow certainly paid off for Robert Downey Jr.!

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Mark Wahlberg

celebrities who have been to jailCrime: Attacking two Vietnamese men when he was sixteen – beating one of them unconscious with a wooden stick.  

Hard time: Wahlberg was sentenced to two years in prison for assault, after pleading guilty, but only served 45 days.

In his teenage years Wahlberg had been in a gang and was addicted to cocaine.

He had been in trouble with the police over twenty times before his prison sentence – several of those occasions had been race related.

It was believed that the attack on one of the Vietnamese men had left him blind in one eye. It has recently turned out, however, that the man had already been blinded in the Vietnam War. He had no idea that his attacker had been the now famous Mark Wahlberg and is now in support of a full pardon.

Career after prison: After his time in jail Wahlberg decided he wanted to change his ways and left his street gang so he could get on the straight and narrow.

Three years after his release from prison he shot to fame in the music industry under the name ‘Marky Mark’.

He soon started making a name for himself as an actor and has gone to star in big films such as ‘Boogie Nights’, ‘The Perfect Storm’, ‘The Departed’, ‘The Fighter’ and many more. He also starred in the latest movie in the behemoth ‘Transformers’ franchise – a film that everyone involved in should probably do some hard time for!

Wahlberg has spoken about his regret for his past actions and accepts full responsibility for his decisions, although he has requested a full and unconditional pardon for his prior crimes.


Stephen Fry

Crime: Credit card fraud.

STEPHEN FRYHard time: Fry spent three months in jail.

When you think of celebrities who have been to jail, the sophisticated renaissance man Stephen Fry is probably not someone who would immediately spring to mind.

But, at the tender age of 17, Fry was sentenced to three months inside for credit card fraud – he stole the credit card from a family friend.

Career after prisonWe all know that Stephen Fry’s career is a huge success story.

He changed his ways after prison, secured a place at Cambridge to study English Literature and formed the comedy double act Fry and Laurie with the equally successful Hugh Laurie.

He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in Wilde and was a regular in the much loved ‘Blackadder’.



Sir Paul McCartney

Crime: Caught with 200 grams of cannabis at Tokyo’s airport.

SIR PAUL MCCARTNEYHard time: McCartney spent 10 days in jail.

In January 1980, flying to Tokyo for a Wings tour, McCartney was arrested for cannabis he had stashed in his suitcase.

He was forced to spend 10 days in jail – McCartney later described it as a nightmare, knowing he could have faced seven years hard labour.

In the end he was released without charge and deported home.

Career after prison: He was never heard of again…just kidding!

The incident did nothing to damage McCartney’s reputation. In fact only this year he teamed up with Rihanna and Kanye West for a new single, and in 2014 he wrote a song for the huge video game ‘Destiny.’


Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan at Cynthia RowleyCrime: Drug charges and missing probation.

Hard time:  Lohan has been in and out of jail, her shortest time served just 84 minutes, her longest being 14 days.

Anyone familiar with the brilliant 1998 remake of ‘The Parent Trap’ (in which Lohan gives two natural and charismatic performances) will know how sad it is that Lohan took the path she did.

In August 2007 Lohan pleaded guilty to using cocaine and driving under the influence and was sentenced to one day in prison and three months probation.

In May 2010 she was sentenced to 90 days in jail for violating the terms of her probation but only spent 14 days in jail.

She failed a drug test in September 2010, resulting in another day in jail, and in February 2011 she was charged for stealing a necklace from a jewellery store.

For this she was sentenced to 120 days in jail and community service although, because of overcrowding in the jails, she was put under 35 days house arrest instead.

Career after prison: Although it’s unclear just how much Lohan has left her past behind her, she starred in the London play ‘Speed-the-Plow’ last year and received good reviews from the critics.

Let’s hope she keeps on the straight and narrow for the sake of her career and her sanity.


Kiefer Sutherland

Crime: Driving under the influence.

KIEFER SUTHERLANDHard time: Sutherland spent 48 days in jail.

In September 2007 Sutherland was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Unfortunately for him it was his fourth DUI charge – his oldest dating all the way back to 1989.

Because of this he was sent to spend 48 days in the slammer.

Career after prison: As you’re probably aware, this did little to damage his successful acting career.

He continued to play Jack Bauer in the successful ’24’, has starred in several big films including last year’s (quite awful!) Pompeii and will be the voice of the lead character in the next instalment of the huge ‘Metal Gear Solid’ gaming franchise.



Ozzy Osbourne

celebrities who have been to jailCrime: Burglary.

Hard time: Six weeks.

Ok, let’s be honest, most of us won’t be surprised that Ozzy spent a bit of time inside.

It is quite surprising, however, that it was for burglary!

In 1966 he attempted to burgle the same shop three times and the third time he wore thumbless gloves to do so – not exactly a criminal mastermind.

He was ordered by the court to pay a £40 fine but he didn’t have the money and his father, to teach him a lesson, would not lend him the money.

Because he couldn’t pay he had to spend six weeks in Winson Green Prison (now HM Prison Birmingham.)

Career after prison: All of this occurred before Ozzy became a celebrity.

In the early 1970’s he rose to fame as the front man of ‘Black Sabbath’ and altogether he has sold over 100,000 albums.

Ozzy and his family were the stars of their own successful reality TV show and Ozzy has earned the nickname ‘Godfather of Heavy Metal.’


George Michael

George Michael 02 bisCrime: Driving under the influence of drugs.

Hard time: Michael was sentenced to eight weeks in jail but only served four.

In 2010, on an early July morning, Michael crashed his car into the front of a Snappy Snaps store.

He later confessed to driving under the influence of drugs and was sentenced to eight weeks at Highpoint Prison in Suffolk, although he only served four weeks.

Career after prison: After his stint in jail, Michael announced his Symphonica tour.

The album, Symphonica, was released last year and became a number one album (Michael’s seventh in the UK.)


Jeffrey Archer

Crime: Perjury and perverting the court of justice during a 1987 libel case.

JEFFREY ARCHERHard time: Archer was sentenced to four years in prison but served two.

After a successful career in politics, Archer got in deep trouble after it was alleged he had fabricated an alibi during a 1987 libel case.

In July 2001 Archer was found guilty of perjury and perverting the court of justice and ended up serving two years in prison.

Career after prison:  While politics was always going to be a closed door to him after the conviction, he has continued his career as a successful writer.

He has written several novels, completed his five part series about Harry Clifton and released the diaries he wrote during his time in prison.


Johnny Vaughan

JohnnyVaughanCrime: Trying to sell £15,000 of cocaine to an undercover policeman.

Hard time: Vaughan was sentenced to four years inside, but only ended up serving two.

Vaughan, upon leaving school, had wanted to be a writer but ended up in a variety of jobs.

He started dealing cocaine and was arrested, at the age of 21, after being caught out in a police sting – he was apparently told by the arresting officer he wouldn’t be seeing sunshine until he was 36!

Vaughan was sentenced to four years at Stocken Prison in Rutland, but only ended up serving two.

Career after prison: After his release Vaughan pursued his dream of becoming a writer and became a journalist at the Peterborough Herald.

He got his big break in 1993 when, through a chance meeting, he was offered a job with Channel 4 and made his name as a film critic presenting ‘Moviewatch.’

Vaughan went on to present ‘The Big Breakfast’ from 1997 until 2001 and he co-presented Capital Breakfast on Capital Radio until 2011.

He still writes movie reviews for The Sun newspaper – not bad for someone who began his journalist career convicted as a drug dealer!


Honourable mentions

Many celebs have had run ins with the law but not served serious jail time.

Some of these include:

  •  Paris Hilton – spent 45 days in jail after violating her probation for a DUI offence.
  • Matthew McConaghey – Arrested for drug possession and resisting transportation after police were called to his house at 3AM. They found him naked and dancing whilst playing bongos – he ended up spending 9 hours in jail.
  • Mick Jagger – Spent three days in Brixton prison after taking the rap for Marianne Faithfull who had bought amphetamines from Italy to the UK.
  • Alfred Hitchcock – Hitchcock’s father arranged for a policeman to ‘arrest’ his young son for ‘bad grades’. Hitchcock spent a night in the cells.
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4 years ago

Never heard of some of these, but an interesting list!

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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