Created By: Alynnidalar on October 17, 2012 Last Edited By: Alynnidalar on October 22, 2012

Prison Changes Men

A character goes to prison. It changes them.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
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, please!


Examples:

[[folder:Literature]]
  • 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]]

[[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.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
  • Ed Norton's character in the film American History X enters jail as a neo-nazi and leaves as a reformed man.
  • Carlito's 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.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Animation]]
  • 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.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • 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.
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • October 17, 2012
    captainpat
    We have Had To Come To Prison To Be A Crook, but this seems like a Super Trope.
  • October 17, 2012
    tardigrade
    Ed Norton's character in the film American History X enters jail as a neo-nazi and leaves as a reformed man.
  • October 17, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Meg Griffin took it to parody levels in that episode where she went to prison for a few months.
  • October 17, 2012
    nielas
    Does the character actually have to make the claim or is the audience seeing the Character Development enough?

  • October 17, 2012
    JDogindy
    I'm not too sure on the legitimacy of this trope, but I'll throw in one:

    • 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.
  • October 17, 2012
    rolranx
    remember No New Stock Phrases The idea is good, but as already suggested I would take the emphasis away from the character *saying* he is changed and focus on any change, rather or not it's acknowledged by the character.

    A new title it's boring but Prison Changes Men probably would work if no one can think of something more interesting.

    not certain, but should this possible ban real life examples?

    for examples:

    • 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.

  • October 17, 2012
    Alynnidalar
    Yeah, real life examples seem like they could get messy fast, although I'm sure there's been studies on the effects of prison on people... perhaps that could get mentioned at the top and have No Real Life Examples other than that.

    In regards to whether this is a stock phrase or not, I intended it to be more about the change itself rather than people claiming it, it's just the only examples I could think of were playing it for laughs, so the change never actually occurred.
  • October 17, 2012
    m8e
  • October 17, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Film

    Carlitos Way was based on a gangster who resolved to live lawfully when he was released from prison--and he tried hard to.
  • October 18, 2012
    TitoMosquito
    American Dad "Ricky Spanish". Steve spends several months in juvie as a result for trusting Ricky Spanish. He became bitter upon being released.
  • October 18, 2012
    Alynnidalar
    Added all the examples and changed the name to Prison Changes Men, although I'm still not sure on the title. Better than Prison Changed Me, though. It could be something simple (aka boring) like Prison Change, I guess.
  • October 18, 2012
    Histrion
    As per the Caboose quote, how about "Done Hard Time" for a title?
  • October 18, 2012
    rolranx
    I like Done Hard T Ime, though not sure if it's specific enough? less boring then what I suggested.

    I was trying to work out some version of Prisioned Person Personality Change but I can't think of a properly alliterative synonym for change lol
  • October 19, 2012
    Waterlily
    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..."
  • October 19, 2012
    StarSword
    Film:
    • 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.

    TV:
  • October 20, 2012
    robinjohnson
    Any reason it should be "men" and not "people" in the title?
  • October 20, 2012
    surgoshan
    • 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.

    • 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.
  • October 21, 2012
    fulltimeD
    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.
  • October 22, 2012
    Alynnidalar
    @robinjohnson - none that I can see, "Prison Changes Men" was just closer to the original title. Prison Changes People also has Added Alliterative Appeal, for what it's worth. Does anyone have a different title suggestion, something not a variation on this same line? Done Hard Time seems too general to me.

    @Waterlily - Is that a line from the book or the movie?
  • October 22, 2012
    StarSword
    Film:
    • Played for laughs in The Legend of Zorro when Joaquin breaks Alejandro out of prison. A few guards come running, and Alejandro thrashes them in about five seconds flat. When a surprised Joaquin asks him where he learned that, he quips, "Prison changes a man, son."
  • October 22, 2012
    foxley
    This is a major theme in Oz, with prison either completely destroying people, or making them hard and brutal.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=v1b9j7r9haut6lyofbf0f34p