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"This is not the production of Batman On Ice I was expecting!"

"In cryo, you don't dream at all."
Jake Sully, Avatar

Some science-fiction works don't risk putting their dangerous criminals in a Cardboard Prison, instead they freeze the criminals. It makes sense, they can't escape without outside help while in cold sleep (and you don't need to feed them), but you have to wonder if it's punishment enough. Sometimes the pacifistic future society needs someone to teach them how to fight again, or after civilization collapses some foolish adventurers will unlock a cryotube and accidentally unleash a monster.

There is some Fridge Logic involved in the premise. It's not really a punishment, discounting future shock after long periods of incarceration. Most of the time there's no opportunity for rehabilitation. Also, there is no aging while in suspension so the prisoner is not losing a significant part of his life while doing time. Really all it can do is remove a dangerous felon from society, like life imprisonment or execution. And unlike execution, cryonics could potentially be reversed if the inmate turns out to have been framed or otherwise innocent, or someone has need of their particular skills. Unless they're conscious and have to experience a lifetime of hypothermia without dying of cold, unable to move or scream…

A common cause of Cold Sleep, Cold Future, frequently results in a Fish out of Temporal Water; it may also be a case of Sealed Evil in a Can. Compare Monster in the Ice, which can often overlap with this, especially when the best way to deal with the creature is to freeze it away again. Compare also Crystal Prison, which has similar visuals and themes. See also Mind Prison, with which there's sometimes overlap.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Corin Nander in ∀ Gundam was imprisoned in a cryogenic facility on the moon for over two millennia for unspecified war crimes committed while serving as a member of the OZ Organization.
  • In F-Zero Falcon Densetsu, the criminal Zoda was placed in a cryo-prison for 150 years before he was broken out.
  • In the One Piece OVA 3D2Y mentions that the infamous pirate captain Burny World was put in cryogenic sleep when he was incarcerated inside Impel Down. It is important to his character because the last thing he heard before being captured and frozen was his companions (true friends) run away, knowing that they couldn't defeat the Marines at the time, and thus believed that they betrayed him; while they released him several years later, to him he still feels like it happened the other day and thus is very bitter towards them.

    Comic Books 
  • In DC Comics' Earth 2, the alternate world's Arkham Asylum has become a vast cryo-storage unit for villains. Which doesn't stop the new Batman from putting a couple of bullets into the frozen Joker just to be on the safe side.
  • In Paperinik New Adventures, the Time Police incarcerates this way some criminals, and keep them in a jail out of time. Justified because the Time Police apply this only to those criminals that are so dangerous they're not concerned with punishment or rehabilitation but protecting the world from them, and that's the only way to do it besides death penalty (that in the future they apparently don't have anymore)... And even that could fail: the Raider has the nasty habit to break out before they can place him in the cryo cell (he did it at least twice, and in one occasion even stole a prototype device to move between dimensions), and the one time they did get him in the Time Police found out they only placed his frozen image in the cryo cell.
  • In the Silver Age Superman comics, Krypton briefly tried putting criminals into suspended animation in orbiting spacecraft before the Phantom Zone was discovered.
    • Unlike other examples there actually was rehabilitation as there were crystals placed around convicts heads that gradually reduced their criminal tendencies.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Prior to Ben 10: Race Against Time, the villain Eon was arrested by the Plumbers and was kept frozen in suspended animation in a cryogenics facility for 200 years. However, he was able to thaw out and aged the Plumber guarding him into a dissected elderly zombie-like state "in the blink of an eye".
  • In Demolition Man, the title character, a Cowboy Cop with a habit of collateral damage, is frozen along with the terrorist he captured. To be thawed out decades later when the other guy breaks out from his parole hearing, and the pacifist utopia that L.A. (now San Angeles) has become can't handle him.
    • Though, in this case a cryoprisoner is subjected to Neural Implanting that makes each on an Instant Expert in a predesignated field, and gives the inmate the desire to use those new skills as a form of rehabilitation. Our "hero" learned knitting, his rival got a suite of combat and hacking skills.
  • Supplementary shorts as well as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. indicate that following the events of The Incredible Hulk (2008), Hulk villain The Abomination was placed in a cryocell in Alaska, which makes a certain amount of sense as there's not much one can do with a guy who is strong enough to escape any prison and basically unkillable.
  • In Lockout, the criminals being held on the orbital prison MS One are kept in cryogenic suspension.
  • In Minority Report, those arrested by the Pre-Crime unit are placed in perpetual suspended animation as punishment.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness ends with Khan and his associates being put back into cryogenic suspension.

  • In Altered Carbon crooks are not only frozen, their brain is uploaded and stored separately. Earth's super-rich have a habit of buying the frozen bodies and using them for their own amusement. Anti-Hero Takeshi Kovacs is brought out of storage after eighty years in the body of a crooked cop who annoyed his "benefactor".
  • In the Commonwealth Saga, the 'death' penalty was abolished in the Commonwealth, so the next best punishment for heinous criminals is to update their memorycell implant, kill their body, and then lock up their memory cell for a few dozen to few hundred years before dumping them in a newly cloned body at the end of their sentence. One character was locked away for 1000 years, and returns in the distant Void Trilogy.
  • In The Divine Comedy, the traitors in Judecca, the last ring in the last circle of Hell, are completely entombed under the ice of Lake Cocytus, unable to move or speak. Despite their unending resistance, they can never escape.
  • In HanSoloAtStarsEnd, Star's End prison kept thousands of prisoners the Corporate Sector Authority found inconvenient in stasis, including Chewie. Then Han blew it sky high, literally.
  • In Bruce Coville's Rod Allbright Alien Adventures (as first seen in book 3, The Search For Snout), placing troublemakers in suspended animation is used as a punishment aboard the alien ship Ferkel.
  • After Merlin opens up Nimue's Cave in Safehold the Inner Circle has cryogenic suspension as an option for dealing with anyone who could become a security risk if told the truth about Safehold's Lost Colony status. Early in book 10, Through Fiery Trials, Ruhsyl Thairis, Duke of Eastshare is the first person to get this treatment.
  • Whateley Universe: the ARC Black facility, which holds several of the most dangerous supers (and a handful of fatally injured ones), is less a prison than it is a medical holding facility - the goal is to keep those with severe mental illnesses, dangerously uncontrolled superpowers, or unusual fatal conditions secure until such time as they can be effectively treated. At least one breakout among the supervillains has occurred, leading to significant loss of life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Doctor Who story "Destiny of the Daleks" ends with the Daleks defeated and Davros placed in a cryogenic freezer, in which he will be taken to stand trial for his crimes. Before activating the freezer, the Doctor says even Davros "can't escape from a solid block of ice." However, though Davros is sentenced (offscreen) to remain frozen for all eternity, he is subsequently released.
  • iZombie: Freezing is by far the most convenient way to imprison a zombie, since it won't kill them, they can't break out, and they don't need to be fed. You don't even need any special equipment, just a good old-fashioned freezer.
  • In the Lost in Space episode "Condemned of Space", the Robinsons encounter a computer-controlled Prison Ship with criminals kept in Harmless Freezing cryogenic suspension. The clock controlling the re-animation of prisoners had frozen, so they had all been kept "on ice" long past the expiration of their sentences.
  • In Mirai Sentai Timeranger powerful alien criminals are imprisoned by being shrunk and frozen. However, they are conscious during it; one describes it as constantly feeling like you're about to fall asleep but never actually doing so. The same shrinking and freezing imprisonment is also used in the series' American counterpart Power Rangers Time Force, though it's never stated here if the prisoners are conscious or not.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Lister was placed in suspended animation as punishment for bringing his pet cat aboard the titular mining vessel, violating the ship's quarantine rules. The rest of the crew are later wiped out during a reactor leak and the ship's computer is forced to wait 3 million years until the residual radiation has dissipated and Lister can be safely released. This example was justified in the novel, where it's explained that the real punishment for Lister is a suspension without pay, and placing offenders in stasis is merely a means to ensure that people who aren't working aren't also using the ship's air and food. The mission is only supposed to be 5 years long, after all, and if you miss out on a chance to work, you don't get it back. Of course, Series VIII of the show introduced a non-cryo prison deck, so maybe this is only a concern in the novel's continuity.
    • A later episode has the crew find a cryopod which either contains a beautiful young woman, or a murderous psychopathic android. It's the android.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Space Seed", Khan and his fellow augments were discovered on a Sleeper Ship where they'd been exiled after the Eugenics Wars.
  • In TekWar, convicted criminals are sentenced to suspended animation for varying numbers of years. The series begin with main character Jake Cardigan being released 4 years into a 15 year sentence in cryo-prison for murder and dealing in Tek.
  • Torchwood: Jack's psychotic brother is ultimately frozen in the Torchwood vaults after blowing up half of Cardiff, trapping Jack underground for 2000 years, and proving Anyone Can Die by causing the deaths of Tosh and Owen. Becomes Fridge Horror in Torchwood: Children of Earth when the Hub blows up and it looks like No One Could Survive That!, let alone someone in a freezer drawer.
  • Warehouse 13 has the Bronze Sector, where the Warehouse stores rogue agents, like H.G. Wells and Paracelsus, preserved in the form of bronze statues by an Artifact. More than once people have broken in to free bronzed people. And it turns out that the bronzed are still conscious.
  • In The Windsors, Camila has Kate's first husband Gypsy Ricky frozen like this when it looks like he's going to cause a scandal.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Stronghold, the prison for supervillains in Champions, uses a process of suspended animation known as 'hot sleep' to hold prisoners too dangerous to be contained any other way. In-universe, this process is subject to an ongoing series of court cases to determine whether it counts as 'cruel and unusual punishment'.
  • Eberron has a fantasy version in Dreadhold's "Stone Ward", where prisoners are Taken for Granite.
  • Eclipse Phase has storage similar to Altered Carbon, but most polities upload the brain to a simulation for rehabilitation or brainwashing.

    Video Games 
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: Cryo-prison is supposedly a more humane alternative to mundane imprisonment. The fact that it turns the victim into a One-Hit-Point Wonder is presumably not mentioned in polite society.
    • At the end of the Allied campaign, Cherdenko and Krukov are both captured and sentenced to being cryogenically frozen.
    • The expansion's Allied campaign has you use cryo troops to capture two of the Japanese commanders alive.
    • Yuriko Omega is found unconscious under the Imperial palace during the Allies' victorious attack on Tokyo and transferred to a prison camp, where the inmates are under constant attack by cryo-turrets. he breaks out of it by activating her psionic Attack Reflector.
  • Escape from Butcher Bay: In Butcher Bay prison, the most dangerous and escape-prone convicts are kept in cryogenic suspension for the duration of their sentences and let out only a few minutes each day for exercise in a sealed room. Which is all that Riddick needed in order to escape.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, Esthar's government is afraid of Sorceresses and puts them in cold sleep. The reason for that is if a Sorceress dies, she passes her powers to someone else, and if she is frozen, she's removed from the succession cycle.
  • The Heroes of Might and Magic series has a fantasy variant, when Archibald Ironfist is Taken for Granite as punishment for trying to claim the throne from his brother Roland. He's later revived in Might and Magic 6 because his knowledge of magical rituals is needed to defeat the villains, and claims that since he was unaware of the passage of time during his 'incarceration', he doesn't feel like he's been punished at all.
  • In Mass Effect 2 Jack's recruitment mission involves breaking her out of cryo on a Prison Ship. She demonstrates why she had to be frozen as soon as she's thawed.
  • In StarCraft, Tychus Findlay was put on ice until Mengsk needed him to get close to Raynor and kill Kerrigan.
    • In the background the Koprulu Sector was settled by Sleeper Ships loaded with frozen inmates from the United Earth Directorate's concentration camps.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: The area of Belsavis known as The Tomb is a series of stasis chambers where the Rakata kept the things they feared most on ice for millenia. The Republic began sending their most dangerous prisoners down there as well, including the Dread Masters.
  • Void Bastards involves a broken-down prison ship that revives one frozen prisoner (who was iced for a randomly-selected Felony Misdemeanor) to track down the parts it needs. If they succeed, they're determined to have accrued so much more debt to society that they're sentenced to indefinate suspension in orbit around a prison world.

    Web Original 
  • Among the least of the detainments used for supervillains in this article of The Onion.

    Western Animation 
  • The Citadel in Adventure Time is a prison for those who commit "cosmic crimes". Criminals there are kept frozen in crystals made of some kind of life-prolonging goop.
  • A variant of this is shown in Avatar: The Last Airbender as "coolers" within The Boiling Rock. The cells are insulated, closet-sized isolation chambers for prisoners who step out of line or attempt to use firebending, and while they won't outright freeze prisoners, the cells are really freaking cold — one prisoner who was forced to spend a day in it couldn't bend for a week.
  • Escape from Planet Earth provides a cryo prison, where Gary and Scorch are held captive, if only for a while, before the villain's plot starts crumbling; thanks to Gary's cunning plan.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Into the Bunker", the gang finds a bunker that apparently belonged to the Author of the journals. Unfortunately, the Author had also kept a Voluntary Shapeshifting monster in the bunker, and it's escaped. They defeat the monster by trapping it in a cryogenic pod.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy III", Man Ray is in one of these — except he's frozen into a block of tartar sauce. SpongeBob and Patrick accidentally free him, and try to teach him how to be good.
  • In the final season of Teen Titans (2003), the Brotherhood of Evil cryogenically freeze captured heroes to keep them as trophies—they apparently stay frozen while free-standing in room temperature air. The heroes end up being freed and the villains are all frozen instead.
  • Transformers: Prime. Once Arachnid is captured by the Autobots, she is confined to one.


Video Example(s):


The Omega Dimension

The Omega Dimension is a frozen Death World that is used as a dumping ground for the worst criminals in the Magic Dimension, who are all encased in ice beforehand. But when the Trix are sent there, Icy uses her ice magic to free herself and her sisters from cryostasis and make their escape.

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