[[quoteright:350:[[WesternAnimation/ToyStory3 http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/prison_episode_1_6261.jpg]]]]

->''"What an [[PerfectlyCromulentWord evilicious]] day! First I open my magnificent [[TemptingFate escape-proof]] prison, then I fill it with [[ArchEnemy my most hated enemy]]!"''
-->-- '''Dr. Ivo Robotnik''', ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfSonicTheHedgehog''

A {{prison}}-centered installment in a larger work that is otherwise not about prison. It might be an episode in a serial, a sequence in a video game, or a few chapters in a book.

Usually this involves one or more major characters being in prison, or at least in noticeably prison-like circumstances. In some cases, they might run the prison.

When this trope shows up in video games, you can expect the inventory of the player character(s) to be taken away. This results in the player having to use stealth and cunning to avoid the guards, until the hero(es) get their inventory back.

Despite this being only a segment of the series, [[NothingIsTheSameAnymore it might end up having permanent effects on the tone of the series from that point on]]. For example, it may [[HadToComeToPrisonToBeACrook portray major characters as becoming more inclined to crime as a result of said imprisonment]]. More generally, a prison episode is often used to show and/or begin a DarkerAndEdgier ToneShift.

!! Examples:

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* In ''Manga/OnePiece'', Monkey D. Luffy breaks ''into'' Impel Down, the Marine Forces' top maximum-security prison, in an attempt to free his brother Ace. [[spoiler: He arrives barely too late.]]
* In ''Anime/JingKingOfBandits'', Jing heads to the prison Seventh Heaven in order to find Campari and steal his dream-making power.
* In ''Manga/FistOfTheNorthStar'', Kenshiro was lead into Villainy Prison by Jackal and had to fight the notorious killer Devil Rebirth. Later on in the series is the Cassandra arc, where he must free his captive brother Toki, but not without a fight against the cruel warden Uighur.

* The Franchise/{{Batman}} comic books have featured at least a couple of stories involving Batman being a prisoner in Arkham Asylum: "This Way Lies Madness"/"Asylum Sinister" in ''Franchise/{{Batman}}'' #327-328 and "The Last Arkham" in ''Franchise/{{Batman}}: Shadow of the Bat'' #1-4 to name two.
* The ''MsTree'' arc "Prisoner in Cell Block Hell''.
* Both movie and comic versions of ''SinCity'' include a very existential-looking prison for John Hartigan.
* Both Comicbook/{{Daredevil}} and Comicbook/ThePunisher have had arcs or issues set in prisons. One time actually had Daredevil put into prison and the Punisher had himself commited to watch Daredevil lose his mind.
* The ComicBook/{{Legion of Super-Heroes}} had one in the Silver Age, [[GreatEscape the Super Stalag]] [[RecycledInSpace Of Space!]].
* Except for a couple of flashbacks, the whole issue 36 of ''ComicBook/PaperinikNewAdventures'', "The Day That Will Come", is set in Time Zero, the prison of the TimePolice, since Paperinik was ArrestedForHeroism... just in time for a jailbreak. It is one of the darkest issues of the series.

[[folder:Fan Fic]]
* ''Fanfic/CalvinAndHobbesTheSeries'': "Time Terror" is this for Socrates, being in the Wild West.
* ''Fanfic/PrisonIslandBreak'' is a SonicTheHedgehog AlternateUniverseFic with the Contextual Reassignment of a prison - not just the canon characters going to prison for once, but actively being convicted criminals.
** Active and completely unrepentant for the most part. All of the powers/talents that make them heroes in canon are simply redirected to criminal ends. Sonic robbed a bank, nearly managed a second one, killed a cop in the process and escaped normal prisons with utter ease. Shadow killed his foster parents, then used his Chaos Control to rape and murder young women. He started killing men "just to even it out" and was only caught by complete accident on his part.

* ''WesternAnimation/ToyStory3'' has strong prison themes, with [[spoiler:Sunnyside Daycare]] as a prison-equivalent, complete with [[spoiler:a GreatEscape]]. Bonus points for the [[CerebusSyndrome shock]] [[DarkerAndEdgier value]] of a prison-themed installment in a G-rated {{Pixar}} series.
* ''MadeaGoesToJail'', a movie about a woman who was arrested for her behavior management problems.
* ''Film/MuppetsMostWanted'' has Kermit spend the majority of the movie in a Russian prision after being mistaken for a frog criminal named Constantine who looks like him.

* The third ''Literature/CHERUBSeries'' book has James and his friends sent to infiltrate a maximum security prison.
* Subverted when Chip gets thrown in the brig in ''[[Literature/RatsBatsAndVats The Rats, The Bats, and The Ugly]]'': He wants to stay in the brig where he gets a mattress and three meals a day. At the front, he doesn't get that.
* The novella "The Borders of Infinity" in the ''Literature/VorkosiganSaga'' is set in a very nasty but ''technically legal'' [[TheLawsAndCustomsOfWar prisoner of war]] camp.

* The ''Series/{{MacGyver}}'' episodes "The Escape" and "Jack in the Box".
* ''Series/{{CSI NY}}'' episode "Redemptio"
* ''Series/MyNameIsEarl'' has a several-episode-long imprisonment arc.
* ''Series/{{Farscape}}'''s Rashomon episode "The Ugly Truth" features most of the crew on a disc like prison-thing.
* In ''Series/ArrestedDevelopment'', the first season has George, Sr. in prison. However, as part of an "[[InsistentTerminology Illusion]]", his son GOB goes to prison for an episode to prove he can escape in 24 hours time. [[spoiler:He escapes when an inmate shivs him and he's taken to a hospital.]]
** Later, Tobias spends some time in prison to research the role of Frightened Inmate #2.
* The ''Series/{{Ellen}}'' episode "Three Strikes" revolves around her being arrested for participating in an animal rights protest and ultimately remanded to the custody of her parents.
* ''Series/{{NCIS}}'': [=McGee=] gets tangled up in a women's prison riot in "Caged." The plot revolves on him trying to resolve the conflict and the other characters trying to get him out alive. Notably, he is [[CharacterDevelopment significantly more badass afterwards]].
* In ''Series/TheFreshPrinceOfBelAir'' episode "Mistaken Identity" both Will and Carton are arrested due to racial profiling. In "There's the Rub" Will and Phil are mistakenly jailed for solicitation.
* ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' has "Folsom Prison Blues" which features Dean and Sam deliberately getting themselves arrested so that they can solve a case inside a prison.
* On ''Series/{{Leverage}}'', the season 3 pilot features this after [[spoiler:Nate is voluntarily sent to prison to protect the rest of the team ]]. Notable in that it avoids a dark feel due to the team staging an escape in typical Leverage fashion.
* In ''Series/{{House}}'', the titular character [[spoiler:is sent to prison after his actions during the season 7 finale. The first episode of season 8 sees him on the verge of being granted parole. The following episodes go on to inconsistently reference his status as a conditionally released prisoner (he is forced to wear an ankle-mounted GPS, which viewers are sometimes reminded of).]]
* ''Murder, She Wrote'' had "Jessica Behind Bars". While it's set in a jail, Jessica is only there because of a writing program that involves a former student.
* Much of the beginning of Season 2 of ''24'' has Jack in prison to break out a drug kingpin as part of a larger plan.
* ''Series/{{Victorious}}'' had a one-hour special where the gang visits a country named Yerba, and eventually, one [[EyeScream missing eye]] and dead octopus later, everyone gets sent to prison. Andre and Beck have rocks thrown at them, Jade is nearly beat up by another prisoner, and [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking Robbie is put on the girl's side]]. They manage to escape thanks to their teacher, though.
* ''Series/{{Seinfeld}}'' is the rare example where the Prison Episode is the GrandFinale.
* ''Series/XenaWarriorPrincess'' had "Locked Up and Tied Down" where she went to prison for killing a girl long ago except the girl became the prison's warden.
* ''Series/{{JAG}}'' had "The Prisoner" in its first season in which Harm was held by the Chinese.
* In ''Series/{{Covert Affairs}}'' Annie is taken to a high security prison in Russia.
* ''Series/BurnNotice'': Fiona spends a chunk of season six trying to survive in prison, while Michael works to get her out.
* ''Series/RedDwarf'''s eighth series was an extended prison episode.
* The episode of ''TheBigBangTheory'' where Sheldon commits contempt of court - or rather utter contempt of the judge - and is sent to the cells until he apologises. Although Sheldon Cooper out-weirds hardened criminals to the point where "you're in my spot" makes a tough con give up his seat to the psycho, the thing that makes him crack and make a grovelling apology is when he realises the awful truth about the bathroom facilities...
* And on ''EverybodyLovesRaymond'', there is the episode where Debra Barone is arrested and incarcerated for drunk-driving. Seeing her in the lock-up makes her brother in law, Lieutenant Robert Barone, do a very big double-take.
* ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'':
** "The Chute" has Tom and Harry sent to an orbiting prison after being falsely accused of terrorism.
** "Repentance" is an interesting case in that ''Voyager'' itself is turned into a prison for several death-row inmates.
* The ''Series/StarTrekEnterprise'' episode "Canamar" is a variation--the episode is named for a notorious prison, yet Archer and Trip spend the whole time on a prison transport that never actually makes it there.

* Used a number of times in the ''Zelda'' series.
** In the ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOcarinaOfTime'' the Gerudo throw Link into some sort of cell, leaving him all of his equipment, and no matter how many times he escapes and gets caught again, they just throw him back in the same cell. With all of his equipment.
** ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaALinkToThePast'' had a prison sequence, but made you ''break in'' to save the princess.
** The prison in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTwilightPrincess'' made sense, but the one in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaTheWindWaker'' was truly laughable. Absolutely a CardboardPrison. The way out of the cell is hidden behind a pot (though it would still work wonders at imprisoning moblins...or [[TopHeavyGuy any adult male]], for that matter).
* ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'' had one sequence in a prison cell. It followed a very humorous scene and preceded a challenging boss though and thus was better than most. It is especially interesting because the prison lets you keep your sword.
** There are two prison sequences in Chrono Trigger. The second one strips the party of equipment, inventory, and cash after the party is distracted by a LookBehindYou. Ensues a StealthBasedMission unless [[BareFistedMonk Ayla]] is in the current party.
* ''VideoGame/MetalGear'': Snake is thrown in a jail cell which the player can escape from within seconds simply by punching the wall. The prison escape sequences of ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' and ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid3'', however, were fun and memorable.
* The 1982 ''Escape From Rungistan'' game starts with "escape from a jail cell". You had to (a) ask a guard to bring you dinner (b) give a piece of cheese to a mouse (c) move your bed under a window (d) give a piece of candy to a child and (e) dig a hole in a wall to get out.
* ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerRenegade'' has you captured and stripped of your weapons.
* There are several examples of this is the ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' series.
** In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'': You have to escape a prison in the middle of a desert.
** Ditto ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIX''.
** In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'', the desert ''is'' the prison.
** There's another in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyX'', surprisingly ''not'' in a desert.
** The characters of VideoGame/FinalFantasyXII have to survive the Nalbina Dungeons, which is full of people who are just left there to die of thirst or starvation. The [[HereWeGoAgain Dreadnought Leviathan]] can also be considered a prison episode. After the [[TempleOfDoom Necrohol of Nabudis]] the characters are arrested a third time but they escape quickly thanks to [[spoiler:the nethicite blowing up the Ifrit]]
* Kaim and company in ''VideoGame/LostOdyssey'' are at one point obliged to escape from the brig of a [[CoolShip royal yacht]], dodging security drones and pussy-footing across pressure-sensitive floor tiles. Hilariously, they begin their escape by [[LaserGuidedAmnesia wiping the memory]] of their guard and convincing him that they were jailed by accident, so even if the player makes a mistake and the party gets caught again, the guard will apologize and let them back out.
* The last segment of VideoGame/TexMurphy: Overseer takes place on the island prison of Alkatraz. Tex Murphy finds himself trapped a cell and must escape and make his way deep into the prison while avoiding deadly security droids.
* In ''Webcomic/PennyArcade'''s parody RPG, ''[[VideoGame/PennyArcadeAdventures On The Rain Slick Precipice Of Darkness Episode 2]]'' the main characters are at one point placed in a sanitarium. While your two companions are locked up, tied down or what-have-you, your character is allowed to run completely free, albeit disarmed. On the other hand, when you rescue your friends, they haven't been disarmed.
* Starting any ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls'' adventure in prison seems to be the default. Apparently it's the sort of world where Ex-Cons really do have a chance a rehabilitation....
** ''Skyrim'' has a second prison episode as well - when you first enter Markarth you get to witness an innocent woman (potentially - you can stop it if you're quick) being murdered in the middle of a crowded city square. If you work with a local miner to investigate, the corrupt guards eventually pin the murder on you and throw you in prison. You're [[PlotTunnel stuck in there]] until you find a way to escape. Aside from this, committing a crime anywhere in the game and getting caught always has a chance of getting you sent to jail.
* ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia'' had Lloyd, the main character, tossed into a Desian prison in the middle of the desert. He busts out on his own, just before the party shows up... too late.
* In ''VideoGame/QuestForGloryII: Trial by Fire'', the titular hero gets his behind tossed in the prison of Raseir. This is the first time in the game where it's not an instant death and involves breaking out, but this was all a plan by the game's villain, who then proceeds to show up after your break, and have his evil ways with you.
** And again in ''VideoGame/QuestForGloryIV: Shadows of Darkness'' where the now-undead evil vizier Ad Avis from ''Trial by Fire'' traps you in his dungeon. Yet again part of a bigger plan, seeing as he ''hopes'' you figure out how to break out and kill the [[BigBad Master of Darkness]]. Too bad the Master of Darkness is someone you know and by hammering a stake trough the vampire's chest, you earn a Game over! Ad Avis... will you never learn.
* In ''VideoGame/PlanetAlcatraz'', although the whole planet is technically is a [[PenalColony prison]], the Industrial Area is the only place that most resembles a prison, or more precisely, a labor camp. You're stripped of all belongings and have to run errands for the bosses to get promoted, before having the opportunity to escape. One of the gameover screens implies you spend the rest of your life there working.
* ''VideoGame/WarcraftIII: The Frozen Throne'' had a campaign mission where Lady Vashj and Kael'thas free the Blood Elves from the Dalaran dungeons, which were full of ultra horrifying monsters. It wasn't a bad level, but at of the day it wasn't as challenging as the normal base-building campaign missions.
** ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' has the Stockades, an instanced prison dungeon in the centre of Stormwind serving prior to the Cataclysm as a continuation of the Defias questline and now updated to fit current miscreants.
* ''VideoGame/DeadToRights'' had an extremely long prison level early on in the game, where the player has to compete in various minigames and do a lot of hand-to-hand combat to arrange a prison break.
* ''VideoGame/{{XIII}}'' featured one (two?) levels inside Plain Rock Asylum, a mental institution.
* In ''VideoGame/MaxPayne'', Max is drugged, tied up, whacked with a baseball bat, and still manages to get out and continue his RoaringRampageOfRevenge.
* The last level of the 2005 ''[[VideoGame/ThePunisher Punisher]]'' game features Frank Castle in Ryker's Island during a prison riot led by Jigsaw. He starts out unarmed, but quickly gets guns from the mooks.
* ''Franchise/TombRaider III'' puts Lara in this.
* ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoII'' had a level where you specifically had to get arrested and then spent time in prison before escaping again.
* ''VideoGame/IllusionOfGaia'' throws Will into the castle dungeon near the beginning of the game.
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'' had a side-quest called "Captured!", which saw your active party thrown into prison, with an option given to either fight your way out or wait for rescue from the rest of the party. The latter option is probably the [[MoodWhiplash single biggest source of hilarity]] in an otherwise {{grimdark}} game.
* In ''VideoGame/SpaceRangers 2'' engaging in criminal activity may result in the character being sentenced to several months in jail. This triggers one of the game's many text-based minigames. Throughout his stay the character can join a fight club, race cockroaches, become a stool pigeon for the guards and, if he plays his cards right, ''come out much richer than he was going in.'' Granted, he may also die, but that's a minor detail.
* ''VideoGame/DiscworldNoir'' has a brief prison-escape scene at the Patrician's Palace, which takes Lewton into [[spoiler: Leonard of Quirm's secret workshop]]. A subversion because, once he's broken out of his cell, Lewton has to repeatedly break back ''into'' the secret location he'd escaped through to close the case.
* Case 2 of the second ''VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigations''. Notably [[spoiler: the victim here was the ''killer'' in the first case, and the murderer from [[ContinuityPorn the very first case in the series]] appears as a witness.]]
* In ''VideoGame/SplinterCell Double Agent'', Sam goes undercover as a prisoner to infiltrate a domestic terror organization and earn their trust.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Shadowman}}'' the main character is tasked with tracking down and killing five serial killers and take away the dark souls that empower them. Three of them are in the same prison, and have started a riot. Because the lockdown prevents the player character from exploring the whole prison, he must use portals in Deadside to access different parts of the prison.
* ''VideoGame/{{Silent Hill 2}}'' has a level exploring a prison beneath the lake of the town.
** The main character of ''VideoGame/SilentHillDownpour'' is a convict who escaped after his prison transfer bus crashed in the town. The last level of the game has the town transporting him to a prison where he must finally confront his past.
* In ''VideoGame/FableI'', the Hero is captured and sent to Jack's dungeon for at least a year. Part of escaping involves winning a race against the other inmates and being "rewarded" with a private recitation of the [[Franchise/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy warden's poetry]].
* ''VideoGame/DeusEx'' features one of these after [[spoiler:you send a warning signal to the NSF and antagonize UNATCO]]. Getting out of the cell is easy, while escaping the whole prison complex can be nigh-impossible depending on the character build.
* In ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsII'', the first (and unplanned) visit to [[{{Film/Tron}} Space Paranoids]] revolves around the party being in a digital prison following an accident involving [[Disney/LiloAndStitch a mysterious blue alien]]. With the help of a friendly program named Tron, they manage to escape their cell, and subsequently escape the computer that's imprisoned them.
* In ''VideoGame/BravelyDefault'' the party is knocked unconscious trying to pass through the enemy stronghold and are thrown in prison, except for Edea, who very easily takes the cell keys and breaks into the prison to break the rest of the party out. Amusingly, when she enters the prison, a party chat can be viewed where the rest of the party comes to the conclusion that Edea is suffering a far worse fate than them and are planning a wacky escape scheme, only for Edea to come in and point out how loud they were yelling their plans (they're held in seperate cells and were unsure of how far they were from each other.). It's even funnier when the random encounters reveal there most definitely ARE a lot of guards patrolling the cells.
* ''VideoGame/SaintsRow2'': The game begins in a prison; your character has to bust out after [[spoiler:awakening from a 5-year coma after the events of the previous game]]. They have to break in (and back out again) later, when a drugs specialist is required.
* In ''Videogame/YuGiOhMonsterCapsuleGB'', Seto Kaiba's RPG World starts with Yugi's imprisonment.

* Doc Chronos, Timmy, and Caveman have been arrested by Roman senators (almost), [[AnachronismStew King Confucius of France]], and [[LargeHam Alexander the Great]].

* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' has several of them, mostly involving the villains, but occasionally major characters (especially Homer, sometimes Marge) end up in jail as well.
* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' had two prison episodes (Technically three, since one was a two-parter):
** Season one has "[[Recap/AvatarTheLastAirbenderImprisoned Imprisoned]]", where Katara deliberately gets herself imprisoned by the Fire Nation in an attempt to free a friend from said prison.
** Season three has "[[Recap/AvatarTheLastAirbenderTheBoilingRockPart1 The Boiling]] [[Recap/AvatarTheLastAirbenderTheBoilingRockPart2 Rock]]", where Zuko and Sokka infiltrate a Fire Nation prison in the hopes of locating Sokka's father, who had been captured in the war a few weeks earlier.
* In ''WesternAnimation/AaahhRealMonsters'', Ickis gets put in jail because he was mistaken for a fugitive.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheLooneyTunesShow'', "Jailbird and Jailbunny".
* ''WesternAnimation/AmericanDad'' has episodes like these. Noticeable when Stan was sent to prison where he enjoys staying and doesn't want to leave.
* In the season two premiere of ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'', "Leader of the Pack" Coyote, at the behest of Xanatos, breaks out the rest of the Pack.
* In "Opening Night" of ''WesternAnimation/TheSpectacularSpiderMan'', Spidey volunteers to test the security system of [[TheAlcatraz The Vault]], a prison designed to house super villains. Unfortunately the prison's computers are hacked by [[spoiler:the Green Goblin]], locking all the guards up as the prisoners are let out of their cells.
* In "Terrors" of ''WesternAnimation/YoungJustice'', Superboy and Miss Martian go undercover into Belle Reve to ascertain and foil a break out attempt.
* ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerb'' has [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KMJf6hEtco Phineas And Ferb Get Busted.]] While what they are sent to is called a reform school, it is most certainly run like a prison.
* ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfSonicTheHedgehog'' has "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czULZ9IRaic Sonic]] [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAjJMbLhHC8 Breakout]]", which is about in-universe cartoonist Sketch Lampoon going to prison [[{{Thoughtcrime}} for making fun of Dr. Robotnik...]] and Sonic deliberately letting Robotnik's minions catch him so as to get behind bars to escape from prison and take Sketch with him.
* ''WesternAnimation/GarfieldAndFriends'' has [[http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xr9kau_garfield-and-friends-episode-4_shortfilms "Wanted: Wade!"]] , where Wade Duck rips the tag off Orson Pig's chair. About 2 minutes of the episode is a fantasy sequence where Wade dreams about what would happen if the police caught him for ripping the tag off a mattress.
** A later episode, [[http://video.tvguide.com/Garfield+and+Friends+Show+Episode+51/Garfield+and+Friends+Show+Episode+51/10954101 "The Legal Eagle"]], had Roy jailing everyone because he took his job as deputy too seriously.
* The ''[[Disney/OneHundredAndOneDalmatians 101 Dalmatians: The Series]]'' episode "Cadpig Behind Bars", where Cadpig is sent to the pound, which [[PoundsAreAnimalPrisons is run like a prison]].
* The ''WesternAnimation/LittlestPetShop2012'' episode "[[Recap/LittlestPetShop2012S1E4Gailbreak Gailbreak!]]" is about retrieving a dog held in the [[MegaCorp Largest Ever Pet Shop]]'s pet storage area, which is portrayed much like a prison.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Rugrats}}'', "The Big House" wherein Tommy is inside a daycare center that, much like the above example, looks and feels like a prison.
* The majority of the Mumfie's Quest arc of ''WesternAnimation/TheMagicAdventuresOfMumfie'' is this, [[WhatDoYouMeanItsForKids which is rather shocking for a show meant for preschoolers.]]
* The ''WesternAnimation/ChalkZone'' episode ''The Label Police'' had Snap being sent to Label Prison for removing a tag from his pillow. He spends the episode attempting to break out with the other prisoners, who include the polar bear for putting a "dry clean only" shirt into a washing machine and a 7-year-old girl for solving a jigsaw puzzle that is only for people 8 or older.