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Why Was Charles Bronson in Prison?

Charles Bronson was an infamous British prisoner often referred to as the “most violent inmate in Britain.” During his decades behind bars from 1974 to 2014, his notorious behavior earned him a reputation as dangerous and unpredictable. Here is a look at the criminal history and prison record of Charles Bronson.

Early Life and First Crimes

Before his decades of incarceration, Charles Bronson was born Michael Gordon Peterson in 1952 in Wales. His early life included:

  • Impoverished upbringing
  • Troubled childhood and history of violence
  • First arrest at age 13 for shoplifting

As a youth he continued participating in petty crimes that led to brief stints in juvenile institutions. As he got older, his crimes escalated in severity, ultimately leading to imprisonment.

First Prison Sentence in 1974

In 1974, Bronson was first sentenced to seven years in prison at age 22 for an armed robbery of a post office. The judge recommended he serve a minimum of three years.

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This first experience in an adult prison solidified Bronson’s reputation as dangerous and volatile behind bars. He demonstrated aggressive behavior towards guards and other inmates.

After being released briefly, Bronson returned to crime and found himself back behind bars before the end of the 1970s.

Back in Jail for Robbery and Assault

In 1977, Bronson was convicted of intent to robbery and inflicting grievous bodily harm. This earned him a seven year sentence of which he served four before his next release in 1987.

But a mere sixty-nine days of freedom later, Bronson was arrested again. This third incarceration stemmed from planning another robbery and inflicting serious harm on a co-conspirator.

Hostage Taking Incidents

Bronson became infamous for taking hostages and causing rooftop protests during his prison stints:

  • Took two Iraqi hijackers hostage at gunpoint in 1984
  • Took prison art teacher Phil Danielson hostage in 1987
  • Demanded butterfly knife and inflatable doll during rooftop protest
  • Caused £750,000 in damage during two day rooftop protest in 1990

His hostage situations and bold demands added to his notoriety as a dangerous and unpredictable convict.

Later Prison Sentences

As he accumulated additional convictions throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bronson racked up more prison time:

  • Given a life sentence with a three year minimum for robbery in 1992
  • Earned an additional seven years for taking prison workers hostage in 1998
  • Sentenced to life with a three year minimum again in 2000 for assaulting another inmate

With his violent outbursts and lengthening rap sheet, the sentences against Bronson kept him behind bars for over 30 years.

Total Prison Time Served

Over the decades, Charles Bronson served prison time from 1974 to 2014 – a total of roughly 40 years behind bars with only brief periods of freedom.

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Specific stints included:

  • 1974 to 1977 (3 years)
  • 1977 to 1987 (10 years)
  • 1987 to 1988 (1 year)
  • 1988 to 1992 (4 years)
  • 1993 to 2014 (21 years)

He spent most of his adult life in custody moving between various British prisons. His violent temperament necessitated high security isolation for much of his incarceration.

Release and Later Years

Bronson was finally released from prison in 2014 after serving his final sentence. He was age 61 and had spent nearly 40 of the past 41 years behind bars.

He became a free man again with the condition that his new name be Charles Salvador after taking his mother’s maiden name. Bronson has not re-offended since being released.

He married for a third time in 2017 and took up painting, a hobby he began in prison. The notorious criminal now pursues artistic endeavors, but his violent prison legacy endures.


With armed robberies, hostages, rooftop protests, and prison fights defining so much of his life, Charles Bronson earned a reputation as Britain’s “most violent prisoner.” He spent the majority of his life imprisoned thanks to an inability to control his criminal and volatile tendencies. Though now free, Bronson’s decades of notoriety behind bars will follow him indefinitely.

What was Bronson’s original name before adopting Charles Salvador?

His name at birth was Michael Gordon Peterson. He first changed it to Charles Bronson in 1987 while incarcerated.

How many total years did Bronson serve in prison?

Over the decades, he served roughly 40 years in total behind bars between all his various sentences from 1974 to 2014.

What were some of Bronson’s most infamous hostage situations?

Some included taking Iraqi hijackers hostage in 1984, taking an art teacher hostage in 1987, and causing a damaging rooftop protest in 1990.

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When was Bronson originally sentenced to life in prison?

Bronson first received a life sentence with a three year minimum in 1992 for armed robbery. He later received another life sentence in 2000 as well.

What violent acts did Bronson commit while incarcerated?

He frequently got into vicious fights with inmates and guards. He also assaulting a fellow prisoner in an attack that extended a later prison sentence.

How was Bronson able to take hostages while in custody?

His unpredictable nature made him difficult to control, allowing him to obtain weapons. During rooftop protests he used threats to free captives for demands.

Did prison officials try methods to curb Bronson’s violent behavior?

Yes, he spent many years in solitary confinement. But his temperament still periodically erupted in violent hostage incidents and fights.

What has Bronson done since his release from prison in 2014?

He has avoided further criminal activity. He married again and pursued artistic interests like painting that he began during his decades of incarceration.

Does Bronson have mental health issues that may explain his violent past?

Some experts have speculated that he may have antisocial personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenic tendencies that contributed to his aggression.

Where does Bronson reside now that he has been released?

He reportedly now lives a quiet life out of the public eye somewhere in the south of England along with his third wife.

Imran Khan

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We are dedicated to exploring the intricacies of prison life and justice reform through firsthand experiences and expert insights.

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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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