September 23, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman make convincing cons in The Shawshank Redemption-—thanks to acting. Though both may have prepared for the movie by studying real convicts, neither has actually done time in the clink. Here are some stars who have been behind bars only to later relive their big-house experiences-or at least the wayward ways that put them there-on screen. Charles S. Dutton Crime and Punishment: TV’s Roc was paroled in 1976, after serving more than seven years for manslaughter. Effect on Acting Career: He didn’t have one at the time. Screen Con Job: He played a convicted killer in 1992’s Alien 3.

Steve McQueen Crime and Punishment: As a Marine in the late ’40s, McQueen was sent to the brig twice for going AWOL. Effect on Acting Career: Didn’t have one yet. Screen Con Job: He portrayed a brutalized prisoner who goes permanently AWOL in 1973’s Papillon.

Robert Mitchum Crime and Punishment: The bobby-soxer idol was arrested for possession of marijuana and served 50 days in jail and on a work farm in 1949. Effect on Acting Career: At first it seemed that it would go up in smoke, but the jail time only served to beef up his rebel status. Screen Con Job: As the maniac ex-con in 1962’s Cape Fear, Mitchum goes for big cigars instead of pot.

Sean Penn Crime and Punishment: The hot-tempered, pugilistic thesp spent 33 days in the pen for violating parole on reckless-driving and assault charges. Effect on Acting Career: None. Screen Con Job: Penn’s hot-tempered, pugilistic lawyer in Carlito’s Way is headed for the slammer, but gets whacked instead.

Christian Slater Crime and Punishment: Slater did 10 days in 1990 for drunken driving. Effect on Acting Career: None. Screen Con Job: In 1991’s Mobsters, he gets to booze it up, drive fast cars-and get away with murder.

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