A Prison Ship is a penitentiary, correctional facility, or jail that moves under its own power. Often featured to highlight the questionable practices of villains, the heroics of protagonist, a setting in itself, or just to move the story along. It's also an easy way to set up TheAlcatraz; in the middle of the ocean or [[RecycledInSpace IN SPACE!]], there's nowhere to escape ''to''.

For the purposes of this trope there are two types of Prison Ship:
# the Prison Transport: often hijacked, this humble vessel is either designed or modified to transport prisoners, not hold them permanently. The transport in ''Film/PitchBlack'' is not an example as it had only one prisoner strapped in; the rest of the occupants were paying passengers. Conversely the prison transport in the ''{{Lexx}}'' miniseries would count because his divine shadow is just that thorough.
# The Jail: often a setting in and of itself this vessel is usually purpose built to hold prisoners permanently (often for unscrupulous deeds outside of jurisdiction) needs things like guard stations, plumbing, cafeteria, life-support, or stasis pods to function.

Not to be confused with {{Shipping}} between prisoners.
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!!Examples:

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[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''CowboyBebop'' episode "Black Dog Serenade". One such ship gets hijacked by prisoners.
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[[folder:Comicbooks]]
* The Marvel UK version of ''{{Zoids}}'' followed the story of the survivors of a human Prison Ship which crashed on what they think is an uninhabited planet but is in fact Zoidstar, former capital of the Zoidaryan Empire.
* The ''[[StarWarsExpandedUniverse Star Wars]]'' ExpandedUniverse had a "dungeon ship" which Luke found himself in in ''DarkEmpire'', specially-designed to hold Jedi.
* Francois Bourgeon's series ''Les Passagers du vent'' contains both types at the time of the American War of Independence - a French slaver and a British prison hulk.
* In [[Franchise/{{Batman}} Gotham City]], Blackgate Prison (located on an island in the harbour) has used a modified barge as overflow housing for less dangerous prisoners. Cluemaster once planned a [[GreatEscape mass breakout]] that involved cutting the barge loose and having it picked up by [[APirate400YearsTooLate modern-day pirate Cap'n Fear]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* The airplane in ''Film/ConAir'' was a prison transport.
* ''VonRyansExpress'' is set on a train being used to transport allied [=POWs=] from Italy to Germany. The prisoners escape and hijack the train.
* In ''Film/XMenTheLastStand'', the government imprisons Mystique in a special mobile prison built on a semi-trailer that is constantly moving; thereby making it harder for the Brotherhood to locate her and stage a rescue.
* ''{{Amistad}}''. The titular ship, a slaver, is a type 1.
* One appears as a plot point in ''Film/TheDarkKnight''. [[spoiler: It does not blow up.]]
* General Zod and co. are stored in a Type II version in ''Film/ManOfSteel''.
* The Tomb in ''Film/EscapePlan'' turns out to be an anchored tanker off the coast of Morocco.
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[[folder:Literature]]
* In Creator/JohnWCampbell's short story ''Literature/WhoGoesThere'', the characters speculated that the crashed alien vessel was a Prison Ship.
* The SherlockHolmes story ''The Adventure of the Gloria Scott'' concerns a prison ship to Australia.
* Over the first few books in the XWingSeries we hear talk of Lusankya, the Empire's secret prison and brainwashing facility, but only later is it revealed to be the ''Lusankya'', a Super Star Destroyer. Even after the pounding it takes in ''The Bacta War'' there's enough left to salvage, and the New Republic captures and makes use of it until the NewJediOrder, where it goes out in a proper blaze of glory for [[RammingAlwaysWorks Operation Emperor's Spear]].
* ''Literature/DeathTroopers'' largely takes place on one.
* In Creator/CharlesDickens' ''Literature/GreatExpectations'', Abel Magwitch has escaped from a prison ship, and is transported to Australia on one.
* The MatthewHawkwood novel ''Rapscallion'' is set, in part, on the British prison hulks being used to hold [=POWs=] during the Napoleonic Wars.
* In ''Kur of {{Gor}}'' Tarl finds himself on a prison ''planet'', an artificial satellite of Gor dubbed the "Prison Moon" by the inhabitants of Gor even though they don't know that it's a prison. He is the only prisoner in the entire place at the start of the book.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* The original cast of ''Series/BlakesSeven'' (with one exception, introduced later) were all prisoners on a Prison Ship.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'' episode "Doomsday". The Doctor discovers that the Genesis Ark was a Prison Ship built by the Time Lords during the Last Great Time War. Being of Time Lord origin, it's BiggerOnTheInside and contains a small army of Daleks.
* In ''Series/MiraiSentaiTimeranger'', the villains hijack a Prison Ship and name themselves after it.
* ''Series/{{Farscape}}'': had many a episode set inside one, poignant considering Moya was one before the pilot episode. And half her crew in said pilot were escaped prisoners.
* A ''Series/StargateSG1'' episode centers on the team finding a crashed prison spaceship.
* Both series of ''Franchise/BattlestarGalactica'' had a prison ship among the ragtag fleet.
** The [[Series/BattlestarGalacticaClassic original series]] had the Prison Barge, a ship used to hold prisoners of various kinds, including prisoners of war. Baltar organizes an escape from the ship along with various characters arrested or captured in previous episodes.
** The [[Series/BattlestarGalacticaReimagined re-imagined series]] had a prison ship called the ''Astral Queen'' which held common criminals as well as noted terrorist Tom Zarek. It was a prison transport nut after the attacks the prisoners where stuck in tiny cells for months before anybody even noticed/cared. When the fleet needed laborers for dangerous duty mining water ice on a frozen moon, Zarek negotiated the partial release of the prisoners as a condition of their being used as grunt labor. The prisoners were given their former prison ship as their new home among the fleet.
* On ''Series/RedDwarf'', the ship itself serves a secondary purpose as a prison transport ship. Apparently only a few people are aware of that floor.
* One episode of ''Series/StarTrekEnterprise'' had Captain Archer and Trip aboard one of these. The other criminals launched an escape and killed the guards, forcing them to make themselves useful to the criminals in order to survive.
* An episode of ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' had the ''Voyager'' itself briefly converted into a Prison Ship. Using {{Force Field Door}}s, [[IdiotBall of course]]...
* The premise of ''Series/SevenDays'' is the use of technology from the [[RoswellThatEndsWell crashed Roswell UFO]] to develop TimeTravel. In one episode, one of the inventors finally translates the markings on the ship and finds out that it is a prison transport. Unfortunately, the [[TheGreys Grey]] prisoner has just escaped and is hell-bent on paying the humans back for putting him in a coma.
* ''Series/LostInSpace'' episode "Condemned Of Space". The Robinsons encounter a computer-controlled prison ship with criminals kept in HarmlessFreezing cryogenic suspension.
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[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''{{Traveller}} Adventure 1 The Kinunir''. The Kinunir class starship Gaesh was converted into a Prison Ship and used to hold Imperial political prisoners.
* ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'''s [[TheEmpire Imperium of Man]] has the dreaded Black Ships, each ferrying tens of thousands of [[PsychicPowers psykers]] [[SuperRegistrationAct conscripted as per government policy]]. They're all taken to Holy Terra for processing, with the strong being "sanctioned" to serve as communicators or warriors, and the rest [[PoweredByAForsakenChild fed to a giant psychic navigational beacon]].
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[[folder:Videogames]]
* ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIIIMorrowind'' has you starting off in one.
* ''RatchetAndClankGoingCommando'' has one.
* ''VideoGame/{{Rayman 2}}'': There's also The Buccaneer, the robot pirates' mobile headquarters and prison ship.
* ''VideoGame/{{Unreal}}'' has you start out on a crashed prison transport named the "Vortex Rikers".
* In ''PhantasyStarOnline'', an incarnation of Dark Force Faiz was locked away in a giant Prison Ship in the center of Ragol.
* ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' has a sequence set on the prison ship ''[[IDontLikeTheSoundOfThatPlace Purgatory]]'', a privately-run jail holding the type of prisoners planetary governments don't want in ''their'' prisons. The warden also makes some extra cash by threatening to release the inmates in the systems it passes through unless the locals cough up free supplies. [[SarcasmMode Real nice guys, the Blue Suns.]]
* An alternate Cave Johnson in the ''VideoGame/{{Portal 2}}'' Perpetual Testing Initiative is captain of one of these.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Freelancer}}'', [[LawEnforcementInc Liberty Police, Inc.]] have prison ships in the Texas system above Planet Houston, the LPI ''Huntsville'' and the LPI ''Sugarland.'' These are type II prison ships: while called ships in the game, they hold prisoners rather than merely transporting them, act more like space stations in function, and resemble [[VideoGame/{{Portal}} Weighted Storage Cubes]] in appearance.
* ''StarcraftII'' has you mount a raid on one to rescue [[spoiler:Raynor.]]
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[[folder:Western Animation]]
* An early episode of ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' has a Fire Nation prison ship''yard'', a massive oil-derrick-like construction built way out in deep water. It serves as a TailorMadePrison for Earthbenders, as there is nothing for them to manipulate, unlike in a traditional prison where they could work with the literal ground beneath their feet.
* The ''WesternAnimation/{{X-Men}}'' animated series featured a two-part episode with a "Spirit-drinker" that Lady Deathstrike accidentally released from an alien Prison Ship.
* ''SherlockHolmesInTheTwentySecondCentury''
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
* TruthInTelevision, [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_ship of course.]]
[[/folder]]

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