What Joe Exotic's Life In Prison Is Really Like

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As people mostly stayed home due to an unprecedented health crisis, learned the meaning of the terms "social distancing" and "flattening the curve," and rushed to their nearest supermarket before the shelves ran out of toilet paper, a man by the name of Joe Exotic became an unexpected phenomenon in the spring of 2020. During the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix's "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" introduced viewers to Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (G.W. Zoo) owner Joseph "Joe Exotic" Maldonado-Passage, his controversial life as a big cat breeder, his side hustle as a "country singer" (anyone who's watched the series or heard his "songs" knows why those words are in quotes), and the many other colorful characters in his orbit.

With "Tiger King 2" set to drop on Netflix on November 17, some of those people won't be directly involved in the sequel. One of them, zookeeper Erik Cowie, tragically died earlier this year, though it's unclear whether he will be featured posthumously. Exotic's arch-rival, Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskin, hasn't been shy about expressing her displeasure over how she was portrayed on the original docuseries, though she can still be seen in teasers for the new show. And as for Exotic, who's serving a lengthy sentence behind bars for allegedly plotting to murder Baskin, it's almost a given that we won't be seeing new footage of him showing off his merchandise at the G.W. Zoo or "recording" follow-ups to the musical masterpieces "I Saw a Tiger" and "Here Kitty Kitty." But how has life in prison been for Joe Exotic thus far?

Exotic spent months in solitary confinement, per his then-husband

As reported by US Weekly, Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison in January 2020 and has been incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, since then. And in the months after "Tiger King" dropped, there was much focus on the G.W. Zoo owner's life in prison. In June 2020, his then-husband, Dillon Passage, appeared on the Australian program "The Sunday Project," claiming that he hadn't been able to see Exotic since he was imprisoned. Passage alleged that Exotic had spent the last four months in solitary confinement, describing the experience as "cruel and unusual punishment to the max for sure," as quoted by the Daily Mail

"I've only been able to speak to him maybe six times since the show. It's pretty ridiculous," Passage said."The only time I can chat with him is with the lawyers on call. He's not doing good. He can't necessarily grasp and stay updated with what's happening out here." Talking about Exotic's previous comment that he will be "dead in two to three months" if he remains behind bars, Passage shared some details on Exotic's autoimmune disease, which "started with the ulcers on his face" and only escalates from there whenever it flares up.

He alleged that he was assaulted by prison staff

In September 2020, Joe Exotic made the news again when it was reported that he sent a whopping 257-page set of documents explaining to President Donald Trump why he believes he should be pardoned. The imprisoned zoo owner included a letter to the president's oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., where he detailed the mistreatment he allegedly received. "I have been sexually assaulted by jail staff, beat up and tied in a chair to the point the skin came off my arms," read the letter, as quoted by TMZ. "Please be my hero ... my hands are damaged from the abuse in jail so I'm sorry for the soppy [sic] writing and spelling." He also maintained his innocence, stressing that he was only resorting to "hyperbole" when he was threatening violence against Carole Baskin.

In addition to the purported assaults, Exotic claimed that due to a number of health issues, including anemia and the aforementioned common variable immune deficiency, he might not live to see his scheduled release from prison in 2037. The massive set of documents had several character references as well, including one from a woman whose cousin was employed by the G.W. Zoo. According to the woman, Exotic's case was similar to that of Trump, who she said was unfairly treated after leaked audio revealed him using crude, sexist language in a conversation with former "Access Hollywood" co-host Billy Bush.

According to an unnamed "law enforcement source" who spoke to TMZ, there was no truth to Exotic's allegations, especially given his reputation as someone who loves making things up.

He's been expanding the Joe Exotic brand while incarcerated

Say what you may about the conditions at the G.W. Zoo and how Joe Exotic treated his big cats in general. It's hard to deny, however, that the man knows how to market himself. Back in September 2020, Exotic (who, in case you forgot, extolled the virtues of going commando on "Tiger King") debuted a line of leopard-print underwear with his face on the front (via The Independent). That was just one of the multiple business endeavors he announced while imprisoned, as Exotic launched his own cryptocurrency, Tiger Coin, in May (via Decrypt), putting him head-to-head once again with Carole Baskin and her CAT tokens, which started trading at around the same time.

Aside from hawking undies and launching meme coins, TMZ reported in July that Exotic had entered the marijuana space with a new series of products under the "Joe Exotic Cannabis" brand name. The packaging features Exotic proclaiming himself as the "New King of Cannabis," flanked by a pair of adult tigers with a cub resting by his knee. Also included at the bottom is a Pride flag — an obvious nod to the zoo owner's sexual orientation. Exotic also has a book, "Tiger King: The Official Tell-All Memoir," set to arrive on November 23, according to its listing on Amazon. Certainly, this is a man who's keeping himself busy by essentially growing his personal brand from his prison cell.

His health issues have supposedly gotten worse

Indeed, a good chunk of what we know about Joe Exotic's life in prison suggests that he has been in poor health for much of his time behind bars. His recent updates have been far from encouraging, as he tweeted in May that his lawyer, John Phillips, "received [his] medical records from FMC Fort Worth and [his] PSA count came back very high for prostate cancer." While Phillips told the New York Post that the diagnosis was not yet official, Exotic's tweet went on to detail how he had lost a lot of weight and that his mouth sores were "out of control." Much like he did with Donald Trump, he also implored President Joe Biden to pardon him so that he can get the medical treatment he needs.

An August report from The Sun cited Exotic, who claimed he was informed by prison doctors that his cancer might have already spread to his pelvis and stomach. He was quoted as saying that he had been waiting 10 months for a colonoscopy and endoscopy and that "medical treatment in a prison is worse than at any humane society for dogs." On a somber note, he also told The Sun that if it's found that his cancer is in stage 3 or 4, he will refuse treatment and let the disease "take [him]."