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Is Joe Exotic Still in Prison?

The story of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, captivated audiences when it was featured in the hit Netflix docuseries “Tiger King” in 2020. Exotic operated a private zoo in Oklahoma filled with big cats and other exotic animals. He was ultimately convicted in 2019 on charges related to a murder-for-hire plot against rival big cat enthusiast Carole Baskin and for violating wildlife laws. But where is Joe Exotic now?

Is Joe Exotic Still in Prison?

Yes, Joe Exotic is currently still in prison serving a 22-year sentence. He was convicted in April 2019 on two counts of murder-for-hire and 17 wildlife charges. In January 2020, he was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison.

Joe Exotic is currently being held at FMC Fort Worth, a federal medical center prison in Texas. He has been incarcerated there since July 2021 after being transferred from another federal prison in Indiana.

So while Joe Exotic remains behind bars for now, he has continued to make headlines from prison over the past couple years as he pursues lawsuits and petitions to get out early.

Joe Exotic’s Convictions and Sentencing

In April 2019, Joe Exotic was found guilty on two counts of hiring someone to murder animal rights activist Carole Baskin in Florida, and for violating federal wildlife laws in his animal park.

Here’s an overview of Joe Exotic’s convictions and sentencing:

  • Murder-for-hire convictions: Joe Exotic was convicted on two counts of hiring hitmen to kill Carole Baskin in November 2017. For each of these counts, he received a sentence of 10 years in prison.
  • Wildlife violations: He was found guilty on nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act by killing five tigers and illegally selling tigers across state lines. He was also convicted on eight counts of falsifying wildlife records. For these 17 counts combined, he received an additional 12 years in prison.
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In total, Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison in January 2020. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 fine for each of the wildlife violations.

Timeline of Joe Exotic’s Convictions and Sentencing

April 2, 2019Found guilty at trial on all counts
January 22, 2020Sentenced to 22 years in federal prison
July 2021Transferred to FMC Fort Worth prison

Joe Exotic’s Failed Appeals

After being sentenced in early 2020, Joe Exotic began filing appeals and petitions to get his conviction overturned or his sentence reduced. However, none of these efforts have been successful so far.

In July 2021, a federal appeals court rejected his request for a new trial. His legal team argued that he didn’t receive a fair trial and that his previous attorneys provided ineffective counsel. But the appeals court upheld his conviction, ruling that the evidence against him was overwhelming.

Exotic also filed for presidential pardon in September 2020 hoping that outgoing President Donald Trump would grant him clemency before leaving office. But Trump did not end up pardoning Joe Exotic during his final days as president in January 2021.

So while he continues exploring additional appeal options, Joe Exotic remains imprisoned with his 22-year sentence intact.

Lawsuits and Petitions from Prison

Despite being behind bars, Joe Exotic has remained determined in seeking his freedom by filing various lawsuits and petitions.

In March 2022, he filed a major $94 million lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and several government witnesses involved in his criminal case. He alleges false arrest, false imprisonment, selective enforcement, discrimination, and entrapment, among other claims.

Exotic has also accused the lead detective in his case of perjury and petitioned for the Department of Justice to investigate. And he filed a civil rights lawsuit against two former federal agents and a witness for allegedly violating his constitutional rights.

Additionally, Joe Exotic has written to Kim Kardashian asking for her help, and has petitioned Missouri congressmen to sponsor a bill to free him. While most of his lawsuits and pleas remain pending, none have yet been successful in overturning his conviction.

Joe Exotic’s Health in Prison

Joe Exotic has faced some health issues since being incarcerated. In May 2021, he announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer while in prison. He underwent treatment and surgery for his cancer diagnosis over the past year.

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In November 2022, Exotic provided an update that he is cancer-free after undergoing aggressive treatments and having his prostate completely removed. However, he has claimed the prison failed to properly treat his disease.

Beyond cancer, Exotic has also reported suffering from other medical complications in prison, including blood infections, pain, and mental health issues. His attorneys and husband Dillon Passage have expressed concerns over the quality of healthcare he is receiving behind bars.

Could Joe Exotic Be Released Early?

Joe Exotic clearly hopes to regain his freedom soon by appealing his conviction, suing those involved in his case, seeking a pardon, and claiming mistreatment in prison. But could he actually be released earlier than his 22-year sentence?

Legal experts say he does still have options, but his chances remain slim. A successful appeal overturning his conviction or a presidential pardon seem unlikely. However, there are a few other possibilities:

  • Compassionate release: Exotic could be granted compassionate release by a judge due to his health issues like cancer. But this rarely happens in federal cases.
  • Commutation: The President has the power to commute his sentence, lessening the time he serves rather than a full pardon. This may be more plausible than a pardon.
  • Time off for good behavior: Exotic could get 15% off his 22-year sentence for good behavior in prison, reducing it to around 19 years.

While Joe Exotic continues to be hopeful, the reality is he will likely remain in prison for a significant portion of his original sentence. But his antics and outspoken nature will keep his case in the spotlight.

Frequently Asked Questions About Joe Exotic

Here are some common questions many people still have about Joe Exotic and his current status:

Is Joe Exotic married?

Joe Exotic was previously married to two different men at the same time while running his Oklahoma zoo. He was married to John Finlay from 2014-2017 and Travis Maldonado from 2014 until Maldonado’s accidental death in 2017.

In December 2017, Exotic wed his most recent husband Dillon Passage in a non-legally binding ceremony. They filed for divorce in March 2022.

Where is Joe Exotic’s zoo now?

Joe Exotic’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma is still operating, but under new ownership. After his financial troubles and criminal conviction, Jeff Lowe took over ownership of the zoo. It was renamed to Tiger King Park and continues exhibiting big cats and other animals.

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What happened to Carole Baskin after Tiger King?

Carole Baskin was portrayed as the main rival of Joe Exotic on Tiger King. She is still running Big Cat Rescue in Florida to this day. After the show’s success, she appeared on Dancing with the Stars season 29. Baskin continues her big cat advocacy and has spoken out against Tiger King for glamorizing animal abuse.

Is a Season 3 of Tiger King happening?

Yes, Netflix has confirmed that Tiger King will return for a third season, though no release date has been set yet. It’s presumed that the new season will provide updates on Joe Exotic as well as other key figures like Jeff Lowe, Carole Baskin, and Doc Antle post-conviction.

What is Joe Exotic’s sentence? How much time will he serve?

Joe Exotic is currently serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison. With good behavior factored in, he will likely end up serving around 19 years total behind bars. He was sentenced in January 2020, so he will remain in prison until at least 2037 unless granted early release or a pardon.


The bizarre saga of Joe Exotic has continued to fascinate and attract attention even while he remains incarcerated. His outlandish personality, country music videos, and war with Carole Baskin provided endless entertainment on Tiger King.

But the newfound fame and media spotlight have not been enough to overturn Exotic’s convictions tied to murder-for-hire and wildlife violations yet. For now, Joe Exotic remains in federal prison, though he has not given up seeking new legal avenues to secure his early release.

While Joe Exotic became a household name overnight thanks to Netflix, the former zoo operator is now approaching his fourth year in prison. Exotic still has many years left to serve on his 22-year sentence. But his team continues filing appeals and lawsuits, claiming his conviction was unjust.

The next few years will determine whether Joe Exotic can regain his freedom sooner than expected. For the latest updates on his legal case, health in prison, and chances of returning to the outside world, Exotic will surely remain in the headlines.

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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