Created By: Odon on July 18, 2011 Last Edited By: Odon on July 27, 2011

Get Into Jail Free

Where the protagonist is arrested so he'll be thrown into the same prison as his target

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The protagonist needs to get information from -- or kill -- another character. Unfortunately that character has just been thrown into jail. How to get access to someone surrounded by high walls and armed guards? Why, commit a crime and get imprisoned yourself! After all, escaping should be easy for our hero!

Undercover police officers do this is real life, but in fiction they always go one step further and actually commit a crime instead of just faking a criminal record. Of course the protagonist may not have the luxury of law enforcement co-operation. However this raises the question of how they'd arrange to be thrown into the same prison, not to mention cellblock, as the inmate they need to get close to.

See also Trojan Prisoner, Play-Along Prisoner, and Chained Heat.
  • The entire premise of Prison Break. A man is Wrongly Accused and his brother Michael Scofield commits a bank robbery so he'll be caught and thrown into the same prison (Scofield pleads 'no contest' on condition he's sent to a prison near his home) to help him escape. It helps that Scofield designed the prison, and the design is now tattooed onto his body.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Cromartie finds one of his targets has been thrown into jail, so he follows suit by the simple method of walking up to a group of police officers and punching one of them. Of course being a Terminator he can get out at any time just by knocking the cell door off its hinges.
  • Fear is the Key (1972), a film adaptation of the novel by Alistair MacLean. The protagonist gets into a bar brawl with the police, so he can get hauled into a courtroom where he takes the daughter of a millionaire hostage and a Car Chase ensues. The entire event turns out to have been faked by the police to give the protagonist a convincing criminal background as the girl's father is involved with The Mafia. In the novel though the bar brawl at least is implied never to have happened.
  • In Savannah Swingsaw Mack Bolan discovers an elite KGB assassin is after a petty embezzler, so he gets thrown into prison (Hal Brognola creates a fake criminal record, but Bolan commits a burglary so he'll be caught by local police) in order to get close to the kid, avert the plot and find out why he's being targeted. Things go pear-shaped though when some fellow vigilantes recognise Bolan and bust him out, thinking they're doing him a favour.
  • Strike Back. John Porter gets arrested in Zimbabwe for dealing in illicit diamonds so he'll be thrown into a high-security prison where a British national is accused of trying to kill Robert Mugabe;Porter's job is to break him out, interrogate and then kill him.
  • In the final novel Quiller discovers that a witness who has evidence that can bring down a high-ranking boss of The Mafiya has been thrown into The Gulag. He gets himself sent there too (though only by faking the conviction papers) even through no-one has ever escaped before.

Community Feedback Replies: 16
  • July 18, 2011
    • In one of the books of the CHERUB Series Teen Superspy James Adam's assignment is to go undercover in an Arizonan maximum security juvenile prison and engineer the escape of himself and one of the juvenile inmates. The plan is that the inmate he is helping them escape will lead them to his fugitive mother, a wanted international black market arms dealer. He does this by posing as a juvenile with a felony record, which is faked by the FBI.
  • July 18, 2011
    Is there a reason to restrict this to having the protagonist do it?
  • July 18, 2011
    In Lets Go To Prison, the protagonist is a convicted criminal. After the deadbeat son of the dearly departed judge that locked him up himself gets busted for drugs, he deliberately gets himself arrested so he can become the deadbeat's cellmate for the sole purpose of making his life hell. Eventually, the two are forced to bond together in order to make it through their prison stay alive.
  • July 18, 2011
    Subtrope of Contrived Coincidence.
  • July 18, 2011
  • July 18, 2011
    Doesn't just have to be the protagonist, e.g. the Cromartie example.

    And not a subtrope of Contrived Coincidence, though it may certainly apply to being sent to the same prison as the target.
  • July 18, 2011
    I like the title, in the personal sense, but something about it just doesn't feel right. It might be that the "into" doesn't have the right cadence, or something, I don't know.

    Some part of me thinks Go Directly To Jail would work, but another part disagrees. In short, I'm very ambivalent on this trope name.
  • July 18, 2011
    Happens in Warbreaker when Vasher gets arrested in order to get Breath from a captured rebel.
  • July 18, 2011
    In the Otto Preminger LSD Comedy Skidoo, a retired hit man (Jackie Gleason) is ordered by The Don (Groucho Marx, in his last role) to get himself into prison to kill a snitch (Mickey Rooney).
  • July 18, 2011
  • July 18, 2011
    A sidequest in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion involves getting yourself imprisoned to gain the trust of an inmate, who you are told has hidden a stash of treasure somewhere.
  • July 18, 2011
  • July 18, 2011
    • The Distant Finale of the Stainless Steel Rat series is a short story where the Rat, as an old man, apparently loses his touch and gets arrested and imprisoned. It turns out he's still got it, and let himself get caught as the first step of a plan to bust an old friend out of the prison.
      • Also in A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born a young DiGriz allows himself to get caught in the belief that he'll meet criminal masterminds in prison who'll teach him the art of crime.
  • July 19, 2011
    This happens in one episode of Golgo13 - Duke Togo allows himself to be arrested so he'll end up in the same ludicrously high-security prison as his target, a crook whose old companions are worried about spilling the beans on them. Needless to say, escaping a prison that makes The Alcatraz look like a cardboard box is no problem for Golgo 13!
  • July 19, 2011
    I'm not sure if this counts but...

    In Burn Notice, Michael askes to be put in prison for a week to protect a friend of Sam's. This ends with a prison riot, and the man who wants Sam's friend dead being broken out of prison, and set up to go right back
  • July 27, 2011
    In an episode of Due South, a key witness is behind bars and Fraser's partner is jailed for contempt. Fraser gets himself arrested to join them and be in position to protect them. He's such a straight arrow that he can't bring himself to shoplift a candy bar, and his police friends have to plant it on him.