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Is Joe Exotic Still in Prison in 2023?

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, is one of the most controversial figures to come out of the true crime documentary craze. The Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness introduced the world to the bizarre story of Joe Exotic in 2020. Viewers were fascinated by Exotic’s wild personality, his Oklahoma tiger zoo, and his fierce rivalry with fellow big cat enthusiast Carole Baskin. But what captivated people the most was Exotic’s 2019 conviction and 22-year prison sentence for hiring a hitman to kill Baskin and various wildlife crimes.

In 2023, many are wondering if Joe Exotic is still behind bars or if he has managed to get out early. Here is an in-depth look at Joe Exotic’s original conviction, his efforts to get a presidential pardon, and an update on whether he remains imprisoned as of 2023.

Joe Exotic’s Original Conviction and Sentence

In April 2019, Joseph Maldonado-Passage was found guilty on two counts of murder-for-hire for plotting to kill rival Carole Baskin, as well as multiple wildlife violations related to his zoo. The murder-for-hire charges each carried a sentence of 10 years. He was also convicted of killing 5 tigers in October 2017 to make room for cage space, leading to an additional year for each tiger killed.

In January 2020, Joe Exotic was sentenced to a total of 22 years in federal prison. He was fined $10,000 for each of the wildlife violations related to the endangered species act. His rival Carole Baskin, who he was convicted of plotting to murder, attended his sentencing and told the judge, “he was willing to lie, cheat and steal from his own family members.”

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Here is a table summarizing Joe Exotic’s convictions and sentence:

Murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin10 years
Second murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin10 years
Killing 5 tigers1 year each (5 years total)
Wildlife violations$10,000 fine each

Total Sentence: 22 years in prison

After receiving his 22 year sentence, Joe Exotic was transferred to the Federal Medical Center Forth Worth in Texas to begin serving his time.

Joe Exotic’s Efforts to Get Out of Prison

Shortly after beginning his sentence, Joe Exotic began seeking ways to get out of prison early through appeals and seeking a presidential pardon.

In March 2020, Exotic filed a $94 million federal lawsuit against various government agencies, as well as his former business partner Jeff Lowe, for damages stemming for his prosecution and conviction. A judge ended up dismissing the lawsuit in June 2020.

Also in March 2020, Exotic submitted a request to President Donald Trump asking for a pardon. He wrote multiple letters to the president pleading his innocence. Exotic’s legal team claimed that he was sexually assaulted in prison and that his health was at risk from inadequate medical care.

In September 2021, attorneys for Joe Exotic traveled to Washington DC to present a 257-page application for pardon to the Department of Justice. The application included several character references from Exotic’s friends and colleagues. However, the DOJ ended up recommending that Trump not grant Exotic a pardon.

On January 19, 2021, the day before he left office, Trump issued 143 pardons and commutations. But Joe Exotic did not make the list, dashing his hopes for freedom under the Trump administration.

After this setback, Exotic continued to insist that he was close to getting a pardon from Trump. He claimed he was so confident that he had a limo waiting to pick him up from prison. In reality, no pardon ever materialized.

Most recently in March 2022, a federal appeals court rejected Exotic’s bid to overturn his conviction. The court ruled that the evidence supported his murder-for-hire and wildlife convictions. This legal loss means that Joe Exotic has exhausted most of his options to get out of prison through the justice system. A presidential pardon is still possible, but unlikely under the current administration.

Is Joe Exotic Still in Prison in 2023?

As of 2023, Joseph Maldonado-Passage remains incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth in Texas. Now 60 years old, he has served over 3 years of his 22 year sentence so far.

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Unless Exotic receives a presidential pardon, commutation, or parole, he will not be released from federal prison until at least 2037 at the earliest. By then, he will be 74 years old.

Exotic continues to maintain that he is innocent of trying to hire someone to murder Carole Baskin. He still accuses Jeff Lowe and various government agencies of setting him up. While he has garnered sympathy from some who believe he was wrongly convicted, most experts agree that the evidence against him was damning.

Joe Exotic seemingly remains focused on getting out of prison as soon as possible. However, his legal options are dwindling at this point. It would take an extraordinary intervention, like a pardon from President Biden, for Exotic to regain his freedom in the near future.

Barring a remarkable turn of events, the eccentric Oklahoma zookeeper made famous by Tiger King will remain incarcerated well into his 70s. For now, Joe Exotic remains in the same place that millions of viewers saw him heading to at the end of the hit Netflix documentary series – federal prison.

Frequently Asked Questions About Joe Exotic in 2023

Is Joe Exotic still in jail?

Yes, as of September 2023, Joe Exotic remains in federal prison serving his 22 year sentence for murder-for-hire and wildlife crimes. He is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth in Texas.

When will Joe Exotic get out of jail?

Joe Exotic will not be eligible for release from prison until at least 2037, by which time he will be 74 years old. He would have to serve a minimum of 17 more years unless granted a pardon or clemency.

What was Joe Exotic originally convicted of?

In 2019, Joe Exotic was found guilty on two counts of hiring someone to murder rival Carole Baskin. He was also convicted of violating wildlife laws by killing 5 tigers and selling and killing tiger cubs.

Is Joe Exotic married in prison?

No, Joe Exotic is currently not married while in prison. His previous marriage to Dylan Passage ended in divorce in March 2022 after Joe had already been imprisoned for two years.

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Does Joe Exotic have health problems in prison?

Yes, Joe Exotic has claimed that he suffers from various health problems in prison, including prostate cancer, memory loss, and mobility issues. However, federal prison officials have not confirmed details of Exotic’s condition.

Could Joe Exotic get a presidential pardon?

It is theoretically possible that Joe Exotic could still receive a presidential pardon, which is one of his only remaining paths to getting out of prison early. However, it is very unlikely under the current administration.

Where is Joe Exotic serving his prison sentence?

Joe Exotic is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas. He has been imprisoned at the facility since April 2019.

Has Joe Exotic tried to appeal his conviction?

Yes, Joe Exotic mounted multiple unsuccessful appeals seeking to overturn his convictions, including petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, as of March 2022, his conviction has been definitively upheld.

Is Joe Exotic allowed to do interviews from prison?

While in prison, Joe Exotic does not have access to social media or ability to speak to news outlets. Any interviews would have to be approved by the Bureau of Prisons and are unlikely due to his high profile case.


The bizarre saga of Joe Exotic continues to fascinate true crime followers even years after his case captured the public’s attention. His outlandish personality, country music videos, and rivalry with Carole Baskin proved irresistible to Netflix viewers. But underneath the entertainment value, Exotic was convicted of very serious crimes that landed him over two decades behind bars.

In 2023, Joe Exotic remains insistent that he was wrongfully convicted and deserves to be freed from his federal prison sentence. However, his legal options have dwindled after numerous failed appeals and two denied presidential pardons.

Unless Exotic catches an unlikely break, such as clemency from President Biden, he is destined to grow old behind bars. The earliest he could be released is 2037 at age 74. For now, the Tiger King remains in a cage of his own, relegated to the role of prisoner rather than zookeeper showman. Joe Exotic’s journey from fame to infamous conviction to continued imprisonment is one of the most outrageous true crime tales in recent memory.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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