Sometimes the bad guys get caught, or maybe the good guys are falsely accused. Whatever the reason, this trope occurs when a character is thrown in prison and undergoes some change while there. When they're finally released or break out, it turns out the experience has changed them fundamentally, perhaps teaching them important life lessons or just spurring them on to a life of crime.
Often Played for Laughs
if the character was only in prison a short period of time, yet still claims to have been irreversibly changed.
No Real Life Examples
- The Outsiders implies that this happened to Dallas long before the story began. He later tries to convince his still innocent Morality Pet Johnny not to confess to the murder he committed in self defense because of it.
"You don't know what a few months in jail can do to you. Oh, blast it, Johnny, you get hardened in jail. I don't want that to happen to you. Like it happened to me..."
[[folder:Live Action TV]]
- In season 3 of Boardwalk Empire Eli Thomson got out of prison and he does not make any claims that he is a changed man but the audience quickly sees a serious level of Character Development. He is more humble, careful and Genre Savvy.
- An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had Miles O'Brien wrongfully accused of a crime he didn't commit. They used special device to implant memories of prison. The rest of the episode deals with his attempt to recover from the effects this, and what he remembers 'doing' in prison.
- A bit character on one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was a death row inmate who converted to Islam while in prison and wished to atone.
- Michael Westen talks about the most basic manifestations of this trope for one of his minisidles (small roles Michael plays to get close to his targets, basically an accent, a bit of wardrobe, a hairstyle, and a way of standing) in the fifth season of Burn Notice; guys who have been in prison tend not to make eye contact, and they ask permission before doing anything.
- Ed Norton's character in the film American History X enters jail as a neo-nazi and leaves as a reformed man.
- Carlitos Way was based on a gangster who resolved to live lawfully when he was released from prison--and he tried hard to.
- During his stint in prison in The A-Team, B.A. Baracus took a vow of nonviolence. By the movie's end, however, he had discarded it.
- After one of his trips to the past landed him in prison, and another got him out, the main character of The Butterfly Effect was startled by a waitress asking if he'd been in prison. The way he hunched over his food looked just like his brother; a defensive technique to keep other prisoners from snatching off his plate.
- American Me is about a gangster who practically grew up in the prison system and has difficulty adjusting to the outside world when he is released as an adult.
- In Red vs. Blue, Church and Grif are captured by the Reds at Sidewinder. When they get out, Grif claims to have been changed by the experience.
Grif: I've done hard time, Simmons. I'm not the man you used to know.
Simmons: Hard time? We were only separated for five hours.
Grif: Time moves slower on the inside, Simmons. It seemed like seven or eight hours to me.
- American Dad!: "Ricky Spanish". Steve spends several months in juvie as a result for trusting Ricky Spanish. He became bitter upon being released.
- Meg Griffin took it to parody levels in an episode where she went to prison for a few months.
- The Simpsons episode "Brother From Another Series" revolves around this trope as Sideshow Bob is reformed and helps thwart his brother, Cecil. Unfortunately, Bob is still arrested and basically gave up on being good.