Celebs who were never the same after being locked up

Being a big star certainly doesn't prevent you from getting locked up, nor does celebrity status guarantee someone has a squeaky clean past. Many of our favorite celebs have ended up doing time after having brushes with the law. For some, the experience was life-changing.

Celebrity prison experiences come in many shades, whether that means a relatively cushy stay at a minimal security "Club Fed" or a scary stint in maximum security state prison. Regardless, being behind bars can leave anyone totally shook — and when it comes to stars, Hollywood is usually all the better for it. After all, what could better justify rolling the dice on an acting career when you've already hit rock bottom in solitary confinement? However, spending time shoulder-to-shoulder with prison lifers can also make a well-intentioned A-lister thirst for revenge.

So what really happened after some of our favorite celebs went to jail? Here's a look at some big names who ended up in The Big House... and were never quite the same afterward.

Tupac head down a 'destructive' path after prison

Rapper Tupac Shakur was reportedly tearful in court when he addressed the woman accusing him of sex abuse in 1995. Considering he also had just been shot five times, his one and a half to four and a half-year prison sentence could have been the straw that broke the camel's back.

Shakur did maintain some positivity in the 10 months he served of his sentence — from marrying Keisha Morris to this interview encouraging youth to stay out of jail. But once he got out, some say Shakur's attitude turned dark. Morris told XXL, "I thought that things were changing, that he changed. Things were getting very different once he got bail, and I felt like I wasn't needed anymore. It wasn't a good feeling." The couple soon annulled their marriage.

Shakur's longtime friend Jada Pinkett Smith also noticed his turn for the worse. "Jail was a very difficult experience for him, and of course, we were on two sides of the spectrum," she told Howard Stern, adding, "I just wasn't in agreement with the direction that he was taking. I just told him that it was a destructive direction ... a very scary direction."

Still, Pinkett Smith said she believes Shakur would have changed his outlook, had he lived. "At that particular point in time, that mentality was part of his survival," she told Stern. "It was actually a mentality he started to come out of before he was murdered."

Going to jail actually overexposed Paris Hilton

Back in 2007, Paris Hilton claimed she had no idea she broke the law when she was stopped by police for driving with a suspended license while on probation. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail — which pleased prosecutors who argued she had "[thumbed] her nose" at the justice system (via Reuters).

Her reality show, The Simple Life, was canceled later that year. According to TV Series Finale, an insider at E! said the public lost interest in the show simply because her arrest was more interesting. "Viewers would see Paris all day long on the news about her going to jail, so they didn't care about seeing her camping with kids," said the source. "It just was too played out."

Critics say Hilton should have publicly owned that part of her story (the way many celebs would do today). Said one Buzzfeed journalist, "[Hilton] seemed unwilling to embrace the scandals of her own making as part of her brand or her onscreen narrative. The public soon grew bored." Afterward, Hilton seemed to fall off the radar compared to other brands like the Kardashians and Real Housewives, who aired their dirty laundry more.

In 2020, however, she did change her approach with the YouTube doc, This Is Paris. "It follows me in my real life," she told Deadline. "Everything I've done before was me playing a character." Will this be her comeback? That remains to be seen!

Prison left Tim Allen sober and humbled

Take a peek into comedic actor Tim Allen's past and you'll find some pretty big skeletons — namely a 28-month stint in federal prison for felony drug trafficking. Allen was busted in an airport in 1978 carrying cocaine. He received an eight year sentence, but was released on parole in 1981.

Thankfully, Allen had already tried his hand at stand-up comedy before going away to prison, and when he got out, he focused on his new passion while working at an ad agency. He eventually got a Showtime comedy special in 1990 which then led to the show he's best known for, Home Improvement (via Biography). Within 10 years of emerging back into society as an ex-con, he had remade himself into an A-list celebrity!

Even now, in the public eye, Allen is forthcoming about his past. He credits his time in prison for turning his life around. "It was a watershed moment," he told Closer Weekly. "It put me in a position of great humility, and I was able to make amends to friends and family and refocus my life on setting and achieving goals." The best part is, he was able to face the demons that led him to a life of crime all those years ago. He also told the mag: "I've been sober for almost 20 years. I'm much more present."

A co-star's criticism gave Shia LaBeouf a deep awakening

Shia LaBeouf's arrest in 2017 certainly wasn't his first rodeo, but maybe that's why it changed his outlook on life so much. After arguing with a police officer in Georgia, he was arrested for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. A video obtained by TMZ shows many of the cringeworthy details, including LaBeouf cursing at the officers and using references to race.

LaBeouf was released on bail the next morning. He changed his tune in the sober light of day, tweeting an apology that read, in part: "My outright disrespect for authority is problematic to say the least, and completely destructive to say the worst. It is a new low. A low I hope is a bottom."

Thanks to one brutally honest friend, LaBeouf might have gotten his wish. The actor told Esquire that the day after his arrest, he attended a cast party with co-star Zack Gottsagen. The actor, who has Down syndrome, kept it real with him by saying: "You're already famous. This is my chance. And you're ruining it." Their full 20-minute conversation hit LaBeouf hard. "To hear him say that he was disappointed in me probably changed the course of my life," he recalled.

Since then, LaBeouf went to rehab, explored his past trauma, and wrote the screenplay for Honey Boy, a biopic sharing painful details of his abusive childhood. Of the revelatory project, he told Variety, "This felt a little bit like an exorcism." 

Did Michael Vick go too far with his squeaky-clean post-prison image?

Idolized NFL star Michael Vick suddenly became public enemy #1 after being convicted in 2007 of "a federal felony charge related to running a dogfighting ring" (via History). Vick pleaded guilty after his property was raided, exposing many neglected, captive pitbulls. He was sent to prison in 2007 and released in 2009. Not only were animal rights organizations and the general public outraged, but the NFL suspended him indefinitely and he lost millions of dollars in endorsements.

However, the NFL took him back after his release, and since then he went to work on repairing his image. He spoke about repentance to college students, lobbied the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for an animal rights bill, and told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he started working with the Humane Society "affecting a lot of kids' lives and saving a lot of animals."

Still, some criticized him for going a little too far to please his employers (the NFL and TV networks). While on the Fox Sports show Speak for Yourself, he commented that embattled fellow quarterback Colin Kaepernick's hairstyle was the reason why Kaepernick couldn't get hired by the NFL — seeming to ignore the public debate about whether the league was racist in its policies. Kaepernick gave an apparent response by tweeting the definition of "Stockholm Syndrome" (the state of being brainwashed into ignoring the negative behaviors of your abusers). Yikes.

Mike Tyson converted to Islam in prison

After doing three years in prison after a rape conviction, Mike Tyson emerged in 1995 as a changed man. Photographed as he was walking out of the prison wearing a kufi (traditional Islamic headwear), it was obvious that Tyson made some changes while he was away.

He confirmed since then that he indeed converted to Islam, telling one interviewer, "I'd like to believe I'm a better individual now. Every now and then I go off the handle and I may curse someone out or be upset, but you know I keep my salvation with Allah ... I try to get all my prayers in." Trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad vouched for Tyson's turnaround. "Islam has given him a purpose and a direction," he told The Guardian, which also noted that "Tyson's first stop after leaving [prison] will be at a local neighborhood mosque."

That was back in the '90s... and Tyson has remained a Muslim ever since. Strangely though, in 2017, he defended his support of President Trump, despite the President's recent attempt to ban Muslims from entering the US. In his commentary about the ban (via the Daily Beast), Tyson stressed that not all Muslims support "blowing people up, chopping off people's heads." He added, "We can't take responsibility for all the Muslims in the world." As for Trump's specific plan? "It's just not gonna happen," Tyson said, adding, "He's just not gonna do that. Congress just won't do that. But that doesn't mean he can't be president, you know what I mean?" 

Mark Wahlberg turned his whole life around since prison

When Mark Wahlberg was just 16, he was convicted of assaulting two men. According to The Los Angeles Times, the actor was trying to steal beer when he punched one man in the eye and hit another in the head with a stick while using racial slurs (the men were Vietnamese). The young Wahlberg served "45 days of a two-year sentence in prison" for the crime.

Then in 2014, he applied for a pardon. Facing up to what he had done back when he was a teen, the actor wrote in his application (via TheWrap): "I have not engaged in philanthropic efforts in order to make people forget about my past. To the contrary, I want people to remember my past so that I can serve as an example of how lives can be turned around and how people can be redeemed."

He later dropped the pardon attempt, explaining to reporters at Toronto Film Festival (via TheWrap): "If I could've done it over again, I would never have focused on that or applied. I didn't need that, I spent 28 years righting the wrong. I didn't need a piece of paper to acknowledge it." Wahlberg added that he was grateful for part of the application process, though. "I was able to meet with [one of the victims] and his wife and his daughter and apologize for those horrific acts," he said. "Some good did come out of it."

Shyne's career got an unexpected jolt in prison

Does former Bad Boy artist Shyne (previously known as Jamal Barrow) owe his career to his stint in prison? While his debut album in 2000 didn't get a lot of attention, after he got a 10-year prison sentence (of which he served just under nine) for a shooting involving Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Jennifer Lopez in a club one night, he was able to grow his career from his prison cell — even recording one successful track over the phone. His second album, "Godfather Buried Alive," went to number three on the Billboard 200 chart while he was still behind bars (via The Chicago Tribune).

Some critics say that his long-term jail sentence gave him a "realness" factor that helped his music sell (via The Chicago Tribune). Whether or not that's the reason, it's hard to deny that he was met with some pretty high-level opportunities after getting out. In 2010 after his release, he was already on his fifth album and juggling deals with two mega hip-hop labels, Def Jam and Cash Money.

Over time though, it seems like his popularity started to fade (by 2012, he made Complex magazine's number 23 spot for "The 30 Worst Fall-Offs in Rap History"). Still, after a rollercoaster ride like that he'll never be quite the same — especially now that, as of 2010, he'd changed his name to Moses Levi, and, as of 2016, was livin' it up in Belize!

Danny Trejo found God and sobriety in solitary confinement

Actor Danny Trejo has a spotty past. Growing up in Los Angeles, he started doing armed robberies which eventually led to him doing time at some of the most notorious prisons like San Quentin State Prison in California (via LA Weekly).

After being accused of hitting a guard with a rock during a prison riot, Trejo was put in solitary. He described his rock-bottom moment: "I remember when I went to the hole. The last guy in there had written 'God Sucks' on the wall in his own feces. All my mind could think of was a prayer. The place where you could really feel alone is the hole, but after that prayer, I didn't feel alone ... because I said that prayer, my life changed" (via LA Weekly).

The star told The Guardian that his prayer was simply not to be gassed to death. "Me and two other inmates thought we were going to the gas chamber," he told The Guardian. "I made a deal with God. I said, 'Let me die with dignity. If you do, I'll say your name every day and I'll do whatever I can for my fellow man.' I didn't want to go to the gas chamber, screaming and yelling and peeing myself."

He was later released and kept his word. First, he rehabilitated himself, then became a drug counselor and built his Hollywood career. As of this writing, he's over 50 years sober.

Prison taught T.I. to be a team player in his marriage

On the Facebook show Red Table Talk, rapper T.I. and his wife Tameka "Tiny" Harris said things were pretty tense after T.I.'s release from prison. Although T.I. was used to being the head of the household before he left, Tiny said that she learned to be more assertive in T.I.'s absence. "[T.I.] was used to controlling things and having things his way," said Tiny. "But once I got on my own two feet, I felt like I should have a voice, too ... It was a little different than what he was used to."

T.I. said that Tiny's new mentality made it feel like his "world was upside down," adding, "Me just coming back [from prison] and not being in the position that I was in, it left me feeling lesser than. So I had to go figure out ways to make myself feel proper and adequate again, and that led to things that led to things that led to things," said T.I. So what did he do? You'll have to fill in the blanks on that one.

Now, T.I. goes to counseling with Tiny and is recommitted after the couple was on the brink of divorce. "It's very rare where you are able to be married to the best friend you have, and the best sex you've ever had ... You don't just toss that away," he said. That's... sweet?