He was commonly named as one of the Watergate Seven, but was never charged with, or prosecuted for, any crime related to the Watergate break-in or its cover-up, although he did plead guilty to obstruction of justice in another case.
After extensively investigating Colson's activities relating to Watergate, Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski attempted to make a deal with Colson in which Colson would agree to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge relating to Watergate, in exchange for which Jaworski agreed to recommend that he not be sentenced to prison. Colson felt doing so would be pleading guilty to a crime he did not commit. Instead, Colson counter-offered. Colson told Jaworski that he would agree to plead guilty to the crime of obstruction of justice, not in relation to Watergate, but in relation to having attempted to smear Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg and damage his chances for a fair trial. Colson insisted also that Jaworski would not be constrained to recommend no prison time. At the sentencing, Judge Gerhard Gesell sentenced Colson to the maximum prison term permitted under federal law.
Colson's later life has been spent working with his non-profit organization devoted to prison ministry called. "Prison Fellowship." Colson is also a public speaker and author. He is founder and chairman of the Wilberforce Forum, which is the "Christian worldview thinking, teaching, and advocacy arm of" Prison Fellowship, and includes Colson's daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint, now heard on a thousand outlets. The ministry conducts justice reform efforts through Justice Fellowship.
Colson has received 15 honorary doctorates and in 1993 was awarded the Templeton Prize, the world's largest annual financial prize given for merit (over $1 million), which is given each year to the one person in the world who has done the most to advance the cause of religion. He donated this prize to further the work of Prison Fellowship, as he does all his speaking fees and royalities.