Never Going Back to Prison

"You dogs'll never take me alive! I ain't goin' back to prison, so just get on out of here before I do something dramatic!"
Crazy Hermit, The Zombie Knight

Prison is not a nice place. There are lots of reason for this: the loss of freedom, possibly being treated like you're not even human, wondering which fellow prisoner might decide that some petty grudge needs to be paid back by killing you, the toll that things like Solitary Confinement or Prison Rape can take on your mind. And it can always get worse.

So, it's not surprising that a character who has finished serving their prison time or has managed to escape makes "never again" their motto. They frequently show an intense fear or hatred of going back, and this can make them all the more determined to be and stay a Reformed Criminal... or it may lead to deciding that Suicide by Cop or killing themselves is better than being confined again. The latter sort may be considered akin to a Dangerous Deserter, as they may do anything during the course of a crime to avoid capture.

Contrast Self-Restraint and "Get out of Jail Free" Card.


Examples

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    Film 
  • Averted, even inverted in The Shawshank Redemption. Brooks, an elderly prisoner released after more than 50 years in jail, can't adjust to a society that is entirely different than the one he knew and toys with the idea of intentionally finding a way to go back to prison, but winds up committing suicide instead. When Red is released, he has similar feelings, although he handles it better than Brooks.
  • In Heat Anti-Villain Neil McCauley plays this straight, and thinks that guys who "get institutionalized" ala The Shawshank Redemption, and want to go back to jail are losers. When his Friendly Enemy Lieutenant Hanna shoots him at the end, McCauley, as he's dying, says "Told you I'm never going back."
  • Dominic Toretto from The Fast and the Furious did two years in Lompoc for assault. He tells Brian he'll die before he goes back.
  • A variant involving Pounds Are Animal Prisons occurs in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Chance, who spent some time in the pound, struggles to escape from a pound worker, yelling, "I'm not going back! No way!"
  • Tank Girl. Tank Girl thinks that Jet Girl has come to take her back to the Water & Power prison she escaped from.
    Tank Girl: I ain't goin' back there. You're gonna have to kill me first.
  • In the remake of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Ryder states that he is never going back to prison, and forces a Suicide by Cop rather than be captured, claiming that the man who killed him is a hero for doing so.
  • The Blues Brothers. The title characters are pretty determined not to go back to prison... at least until they can pay the assessment taxes on the orphanage they grew up in.
  • In White Heat, Cody chooses Suicide by Cop over going back to prison, although in that instance he'd have been executed, rather than locked up.
  • Roy "Mad Dog" Earle, of High Sierra, has nightmares about prison, and is determined never to go back. Like many of the above examples, he eventually chooses Suicide by Cop instead.
  • Hudson Hawk. The titular Hawk starts the movie just getting out of prison, and is intent on never going back, even though they try to rope him into One Last Job. He manages to do the job and have his happy ending, though.
  • In Collateral Daniel sold out The Cartel because "they said I could help them or go back inside. And I'm not going back inside."
  • Ant-Man: Scott's goal is this, as he wants to be a good role model for his daughter. He does prove willing to risk it when circumstances conspire to keep him from the child support he needs to see her, though.
  • The only real moment of characterization in Jem and the Holograms is when one of the girls, as they commit breaking and entering, declares in a panic that she "can't go back to juvvy!"
  • The Wives in Mad Max: Fury Road are determined to never return to Immortan Joe's Gilded Cage at the Citadel. Cheedo the Fragile, thanks to her youth and Stockholm Syndrome, has issues with this at times.

    Literature 
  • In Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus!, convicted bank robber John Dillinger makes this vow.
  • In the Artemis Fowl short story "LEPRecon", Turnball Root decides he would rather kill himself by swallowing a Tunnel Blue spider than let his brother Julius incarcerate him.
  • In The Zombie Knight, the house that Lynnette asks for a phone at when she's walking back to Atreya contains a crazy old guy who thinks she's some kind of weird cop come to get him, and shoots her in the chest with a shotgun when she doesn't go away. However, since she now has a major Upgrade Artifact, he only succeeds in hurting himself with the ricochet.
    Hermit: You dogs'll never take me alive! I ain't goin' back to prison, so just get on out of here before I do something dramatic! I'm unstable, ya hear?! I'm crazy!
  • Ostap Bender, the con artist from The Twelve Chairs and The Little Golden Calf, is very careful about direct violations of Soviet criminal law; his modus operandi is "bend it, not break it". It is very heavily implied that he started his adventures in the first novel right after being released from jail and doesn't want to return there.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Wire
    • Avon Barksdale, the kingpin of the Barksdale drug empire, managed to be a hard core criminal from at least his early teens into adulthood without ever going to prison, but is finally busted at the end of Season 1. When he gets out in Season 3 he voices his determination to never go back. Unfortunately for him, a falling out with his longtime best friend and Number Two winds up resulting in the same unit that caught him before getting to him again at the end of Season 3.
      Man, I'm feeling real good to be out of this motherfucker. You know what, there's a sign on the other side of this gate that says "Never Again" and that's the only thing I want to take with me from this place.
    • Omar Little's older brother Anthony apparently felt this way as well. Cornered and unable to escape from a huge police force coming after him, he attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest rather than go to jail yet again. Somehow he managed to only come away with a contact wound instead and a got a new nickname thanks to the incident: "No Heart" Anthony.
  • One episode of Law & Order: SVU features a Red Herring who's terrified of going back to prison because of his experience being locked in solitary (he even holds his arms behind his back and whimpers he didn't start anything while he's attacked by a relative of the victim). Said fear leads him to throw Stabler off a roof, thinking he was going to be arrested. The rest of the episode follows Stabler's (of all people) attempts to keep him from being sent back to solitary.
  • Life. Charlie Crews met his Heterosexual Life-Partner/accountant Ted while they both were in prison. At one point Charlie is threatened by someone in authority by sending Ted back to prison on a trumped up murder charge. Shortly before he's sent away Ted says flat out that he won't go back to prison; he'd kill himself first - but in the end he can't avoid it. While he's there Charlie has hired another prisoner to be his 24/7 bodyguard so he won't get beaten up too much.
  • Burn Notice has used this a few times.
    • In "Identity" Michael approaches a Con Man named Quentin King by pretending to be someone who did time with King's old cellmate. As part of selling the ID Michael claims to have jumped parole, acts nervous around cops, and at one point tells King that he isn't going back to prison and is willing to do a Taking You with Me/Suicide by Cop rather than go back.
    • In the episode "Scatter Point", Mike is hired by a Reformed Criminal named Trevor who explains that he can't go back to jail, (Trevor's son was born during his last stay in jail and he doesn't want to abandon the kid) but that his old gang is trying to recruit him for a job, the boss will kill Trevor and his whole family if he refuses, and if he tries to get out of it by skipping town he'll be violating parole and sent back to prison. Michael agrees to find a way disrupt the heist so Trevor won't be in danger of being killed or going back to jail.
  • In Season 3 of Justified Dirty Coward Dickie Bennett swears that he can't go back to prison, and actually attempts Suicide by Cop by pulling a gun on Raylan. Raylan clips him in the leg and sends him back to jail anyway.
  • In an episode of Bonanza Hoss attempted to take in a prison escapee. The escapee ranted that he couldn't go back to prison because they always told him when to get up, when to eat, when to work, when to sleep. It was like he was in prison! (Oh, wait....)
  • An episode of The X-Files has a mysterious blind woman stalking a recently released criminal, trying to stop him from doing anything that would send him back to jail. It's revealed she's his daughter from the rape that sent him in the first place, and can see through his eyes: She's seen nothing but prison all her life, and eventually murders him on a seaside rather than let him get arrested again.
  • Cops LAC has Zac Butler state this word for word.

     Video Games 
  • In Deus Ex, if you question the drug dealer Rock about stolen vaccine, he'll say "Bitch, I ain't going back to jail!" and start shooting. Note that he doesn't have anything to do with that particular theft, though.
  • In Borderlands 2, one of Krieg's skins gives him black-and-white striped pants and a prisoner number tattooed on his chest. The skin's called "IíLL NEVER GO BACK".
  • In Silent Hill: Downpour, Murphy Pendelton says this to Anne Marie Cunningham, a cop who is trying to send him back after the prison bus crashes in Silent Hill.

    Web Original 

    Web Video 
  • Ultra Fast Pony.
    • In "Purple Party Pooper", Twilight threatens to rat out all of her friends. Fluttershy responds, "I can't go back to jail again! The warden is evil!"
    • In "Making Babies", Sweetie Belle says "I can't go back to prison! They don't have any soap, it's friggin' unhygenic!"

     Western Animation 
  • The villains for Season 3 of The Legend of Korra, the Red Lotus, were all confined in their own Tailor-Made Prison when their previous attempt to get to Korra when she was a child failed. They discuss how they all hated their different prisons and their determination to never go back, regardless of what happens. In the season finale, after P'li and Ming-Hua are killed and Ghazan is about to be overwhelmed by Mako and Bolin, he commits suicide rather than be captured.
  • Played for Laughs in Monsters University. When the team tries to get into the scare factory, most of them freeze up when spotted by security, except for Art who yells, "I can't go back to jail!" and bolts. It's unknown what he was in for or whether he was ever actually there in the first place.
  • At the end of Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders Catwoman is faced with the possibility of being sent back to prison. Instead she opts to leap off a blimp and into a a factory smokestack.
  • In a variant that doesn't involve prison but is clearly evoking the spirit of this trope, during South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut Ze Mole states that he's "..Not getting grounded again! Not for you, not for anybody!"
  • Another variation in Toy Story 2 : When Jessie The Yodeling Cowgirl has a panic attack at the thought of going back into her packaging in storage, where she's been for many years.
  • Kevin Levin in season one of Ben 10: Alien Force is not getting sent back to the Null Void, to the point of possibly giving up on stopping an alien invasion when the friendly neighbourhood Space Cop starts questioning the team's actions. (Note this doesn't stop him from doing anything illegal, just from doing anything that draws attention.) He calms down a bit after helping to save the planet/galaxy/universe.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NeverGoingBackToPrison