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Get into Jail Free

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When asking nicely doesn't work...

Harkness: I heard a rumour you were in here, so I committed a few crimes. Well, maybe a lot of crimes. Maybe more than I should have...
The Doctor: What sort of crimes?
Harkness: You're going to take the moral high ground with me when I'm breaking you out of prison?

Most people spend their lives trying to avoid incarceration, but on some rare occasions, being in prison is better than being on the streets. Sometimes characters need to meet someone on the inside for information, revenge, or a rescue mission. Or maybe they need protection that only iron bars and 24-hour surveillance can provide. Whatever their reasons, they're prepared to do what it takes to land comfortably in the clink, but prisons aren't hotels, and police won't let you in just because you ask them (unless you are trusted and working with said police), so characters will generally have to break some sort of law and intentionally get caught. Smart characters will adjust the severity of their crime depending on where they want to end up and for how long. Dumber or more desperate characters may wind up with a longer or harsher prison sentence than they wanted.

Supertrope to Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin' and Desires Prison Life. See also Trojan Prisoner, Play-Along Prisoner, Conveniently Cellmates, and Chained Heat. This is a subtrope of Unishment, where being put into prison is the desired "penalty" for committing a crime, and of Captured on Purpose. Named for, but not particularly related to the "Get Out of Jail Free" Card.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ladd Russo does this in Baccano!! 1934 - Alice in Jails in order to get to Huey, who was held at Alcatraz. While serving a sentence in a different penitentiary and acting like a model prisoner, he learns that inmates may get themselves transferred to Alcatraz for persistent or serious troublemaking in prison. He decides the best way to make such trouble is to systematically brutalize every other inmate in the prison cafeteria.
  • In the Cowboy Bebop Alternate Continuity Spin-Off manga Shooting Star, Spike gets himself arrested to get close to a target who's in prison. Once he's arrested, Ed hacks the system to ensure he gets sent to the same prison.
  • In Devil May Cry: The Animated Series, Dante assaults some street punks and causes property damage in the process to get sent to prison in order to rescue a man who had been framed by an evil "wish granting" demon mask for murder. The prison turns out to be run by demons, but even without his weapons, that's no problem for Dante.
  • Golgo 13. In "Sleep Inside the Cage", the title character allows himself to be arrested so he'll end up in the same ludicrously high-security prison as his target, a crook whose old companions are worried about spilling the beans on them. Needless to say, escaping a prison that makes Alcatraz look like a cardboard box is no problem for Golgo 13!
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean: Ermes Costello got arrested and sent to Green Dolphin Street Prison after holding up a convenience store. Turns out she got arrested on purpose to get revenge on Sports Maxx, the mobster who killed her sister, and is an inmate at that very prison.
  • Lupin III knows he can do this at any time, due to the obsessive nature of his archrival Inspector Zenigata. As a Gentleman Thief, Zenigata has been trying to arrest him for years. All he has to do to go to jail is walk up and announce he's Lupin, coming to surrender.
  • In Moriarty the Patriot, Bond needs to infiltrate a prison to free a convict who has been falsely accused of a crime. Since the compound just had its security tightened, Bond starts a fight with a drunk to get into the prison.
  • Near the end of Outlaw Star, Gene arranges himself to be sent to an outer-space Alcatraz in order to get the information that an inmate has regarding the MacGuffin.
  • Time Stop Brave: In the kingdom of Belltree, death row prisoners are sentenced to Gladiator Games as a form of Trial by Combat. Kuzuno Sekai wants to experience that, so after finding a man killed by goblins (and killing the goblins), he carries the corpse into town where he is quickly arrested for murder. He wins his fight against a monster and is set free.

    Audio Drama 

    Comic Books 
  • Batman
    • The villain Black Mask's accomplice, Circe, tries to get Harvey "Two-Face" Dent to do this - return to Arkham Asylum and kill Black Mask while he's in there.
    • Batman also did this himself at least once, getting himself into Arkham because he knew Zsasz, despite being locked up, was somehow sneaking out to kill people.
    • During The Silver Age of Comic Books, The Joker once faked insanity to get into a specific mental hospital, so he could access an inmate who knew the location of a big mob treasure.
  • Diabolik has sometimes pulled this, but with a twist: having a death sentence on his head he can't let himself be arrested even in disguise, otherwise he'd risk the cops or the guards will check for his masks and chuck him on the guillotine as soon as they complete the paperwork. As such he has to replace one of the inmates, as the guards won't check someone who is already in jail.
  • The Escapist had the titular character need to enter prison due to suspected Iron Chain activity. He committed a robbery and was arrested. (He had to work at the arrest, though.)
  • One Lucky Luke comic book has the Daltons trying to get thrown in jail so that they can dig up a large treasure buried in the prison grounds. However, the judge turns out to be incredibly soft on crime (the prison is really a fortified luxurious holdout where he lodges criminals he's recruited), eventually forcing them to simply dig their way into the prison. As one of them points out, this is a complete reversal of their normal operation.
  • Deconstructed in a MAD joke regarding Prison Break. The joke points out the Fridge Logic associated with Michael's plan, saying that even if he clears his brother's name, he'll have to serve his own sentence for something he actually did.
  • The Punisher often pulls this off, though in his case it's less committing crimes and more strolling up to the police station and surrendering. In one story he does just that when he hears Daredevil's been arrested, killing crooks while he waits for Daredevil to show up asking for help.
  • The Punisher MAX:
    • In the past, Leon Rastovich turned himself in to the police to escape being killed by Frank.
    • "The Cell": Frank shows up at a police station and turns himself in so he gets sent to Ryker's, where the mobsters who killed his family are held, and orchestrates a riot so he can kill them in peace and quiet.
  • In Suicide Squad #6, Harley Quinn shoots up a police car outside of a police station in order to get herself arrested and taken inside the station where the Joker's skinned face is being kept.
  • Has happened to Tex Willer. Being a Texas Ranger, all he has to do is to have whoever asked him this to invent a crime and fill out the paperwork.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Master Plan of Paula Von Gunther: This tale provides the page image. When the warden refuses to put Diana into the cell next to Paula the Amazon tosses a trash can over the head of one of his men and forces him to dance to avoid his feet being shot with his own gun, so they put her in irons and toss her right where she wanted to be.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Batman: Assault on Arkham, Harley Quinn breaks into a doll store so she will be captured and sent back to Arkham Asylum.
  • The Joker pulls a double-layered scheme in The LEGO Batman Movie. He surrenders to the Gotham Police, earning himself a spot in Arkham Asylum for his many prior crimes. This fuels Batman's paranoia: he decides Joker must be planning to pull something big from inside Arkham, and the only way to stop him is to throw him into someplace even more secure. So Batman sends Joker to the Phantom Zone—which plays right into the Joker's hand since his real goal all along was to recruit the villains incarcerated in this second prison.
  • Depending on the choices you can make in DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family, Jason can unintentionally do this if he kills the Joker in the diner. While he wasn't intending to go to prison he decides to stay there so he can kill other inmates.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • An American Werewolf in London: After David finds out what he did on his first night as a werewolf, he tries to get himself arrested by screaming various obscenities in the middle of Trafalgar Square so he can get locked up before the next full moon.
  • Batman Begins opens with Bruce Wayne in a Chinese prison. It's pointed out that a man of his wealth and fame is only in a place like that by choice — Bruce is attempting to learn about the criminal mindset. However, Ducard regards this path as a dead end and quickly arranges his release so he can be tutored by the League of Shadows instead.
  • Boot Camp: After Sophie is shipped off to Camp Serenity, her boyfriend Ben refuses to stand passively by and fakes a drug problem to get himself enrolled in Dr. Hail's Advanced Serenity Achievement Program, where he plans to find and escape with Sophie.
  • Colombiana. Our introduction to the protagonist as an adult Professional Killer involves her suddenly ramming a police car while Playing Drunk. The police put her in a cell overnight to sober up; she breaks out of the cell, kills a criminal who's being held overnight there by Federal Marshals, then gets back in her cell as an alibi. Unfortunately the Feds realise the killer had to have been in the building, so start checking into everyone held in custody.
  • Played for Laughs in Conan the Barbarian (2011). Looking to get into prison, Conan beats the crap out of a guard, stands over his prone form, and tells the still slightly concussed guy "I am your prisoner" while meekly extending his hands for cuffs.
  • A Hope Spot in The Dark Knight has the Joker being captured, but it turns out to be a ploy to get himself into the police station where Lau is being held in protective custody.
  • In The Departed, to make Billy Costigan, Jr. suitable for use as an undercover cop, it is arranged for him to go to prison on a forged assault charge that gives him street credibility.
  • The Enforcer (1951): Aware that his employers are about to pull a You Have Failed Me card, former mental patient Philadelphia gets himself re-institutionalized to get out of their reach.
  • Extreme Prejudice. Two of the special forces team pretend to have a racist confrontation so they'll be taken inside the police station and can report via hidden transmitters the local law enforcement set-up.
  • In Face/Off, to locate a biological bomb planted by Castor Troy, Sean Archer must take Castor's face and get planted in a federal prison to extract information on the bomb from Castor's brother Pollux. But when Castor comes out of his coma and steals Archer's face in reply, Archer actually has to carry out a real jailbreak.
  • Fear Is The Key (1972), a film adaptation of the novel by Alistair MacLean. The protagonist gets into a bar brawl with the police so he can get hauled into a courtroom where he takes the daughter of a millionaire hostage and a Car Chase ensues. The entire event turns out to have been faked by the police to give the protagonist a convincing criminal background, as the girl's father is involved with The Mafia. In the novel though the bar brawl at least is implied never to have happened.
  • Greenfingers: After being paroled, Colin breaks into a flower shop to get his parole revoked so he is sent back to prison so he can help with the prison's entry to the flower show.
  • Kaamelott: Premier Volet: At the border between Hispania and Aquitania wher a Bounty Hunter brought him and his friend Venec, we learn Arthur Pendragon hasn't spoken a word since he was caught and put in a cage. He breaks his silence to yell at the border guard and demands he arrests him and the bounty hunter for illegally bringing slaves into Logres. His and Venec's yelling becomes an Annoying Background Event as the bounty hunter tries to negotiate... and then Venec yells "The Duchess of Aquitania is a whore!" Even Arthur stares at him in Stunned Silence, but it works, and they are brought before the Duke of Aquitania, who's a friend and ally of Arthur.
  • In Laughter in Paradise (and its 1970 remake Some Will, Some Won't), Captain Russell has to get himself arrested and jailed for 28 days in order to inherit 50,000 pounds from his cousin Henry's estate. Following a prolonged Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin' sequence where he repeatedly attempts to get arrested and fails, he is finally arrested when he breaks a shop window. However, once in court, the magistrate is prepared to let him go because of his previous good character. Russell resorts to insulting the magistrate until he sentences him to 28 days for contempt of court.
  • The movie Law Abiding Citizen had a man not only get himself thrown in jail but then got himself sent to solitary confinement. He got himself sent to solitary because he'd already dug a tunnel linked to every cell so he could escape at will, cause mayhem all over the city and have the perfect alibi - all to get back at the prosecutor who took a plea bargain from one of the men who broke into his home and killed his wife and daughter in front of him.
  • In Let's Go to Prison, the protagonist is a convicted criminal with a plan for revenge on the judge that locked him up over and over since he was a preteen. Unfortunately, he gets his plan together a day late and the judge is already dead from natural causes. Instead, he goes after the deadbeat son of the dearly departed judge and gets the guy busted for drugs, then he deliberately gets himself arrested so he can become the deadbeat's cellmate for the sole purpose of making his life hell (he pleads guilty on condition of being allowed to serve his sentence at that specific prison). Eventually, the two are forced to bond together in order to make it through their prison stay alive.
  • In Logan Lucky, Clyde drives his car through the window of a gas station in order to get sent to jail for 90 days so he can liaise with their Demolitions Expert Joe Bang, who is currently incarcerated.
  • Lonely Are the Brave. Jack Burns (Kirk Douglas) starts a Bar Brawl so he'll get thrown into jail to get his friend Paul out. When the police decide to release him without charge, he has to punch one to avert this.
  • The Man Who Came Back: In prison, Paxton deliberately attacks a guard to get himself sent to 'the Hole' so he can put his escape plan into operation.
  • Mechanic Resurrection. Bishop's first target is an African Arms Dealer who runs his business from inside a maximum-security prison where no one can get in to kill him. Bishop finds a wanted criminal who looks like himself, copies his tattoo, then picks a fight with some police officers. He also has to smuggle in the items he needs to break out of the prison, which he does by hiding them in innocuous objects like a packet of cigarettes.
  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol starts out with the team breaking Ethan Hunt out of a Russian prison. To their surprise, he tells them off as he was put in there by IMF in order to get information from another inmate (he improvises by breaking out the inmate with him).
  • Nevada Smith (1966). During his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Max Sand discovers that Bowdre, one of the three men who murdered his parents, is in prison. Smith commits a robbery and allows himself to get caught. They escape the prison together, whereupon Smith murders Bowdre after revealing his identity.
  • Abbott and Costello try this in The Noose Hangs High because in jail they would be safe from the guy who wants them dead (protective custody hadn't really been established when the film was made). It becomes a case of Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin'.
  • In Rancho Notorious, Vern shoots up the saloon in Gunsight so he will be arrested and placed in the same cell as Frenchy.
  • In A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die!, Col. Pembroke allows himself to be arrested for looting and carrying a weapon in the military zone so he will be taken into the fort where he will be able to speak with Maj. Ballard.
  • In Skidoo, a retired hitman (Jackie Gleason) is ordered by The Don (Groucho Marx, in his last role) to get himself into prison to kill a snitch (Mickey Rooney).
  • In The Three Stooges short Three Smart Saps, the Stooges' fiancees' father has been framed and thrown into jail, so the Stooges elect to get themselves arrested so they can bust the old man out. Hilarity Ensues as the Stooges try to break the law and get caught.
  • In Underworld U.S.A. a teenaged Tolly smashes the window of a delicatessen just after the beat cop has rounded the corner in order to get himself arrested.
  • White Heat. The undercover cop seeking evidence against Cody Jarrett specializes in this kind of assignment. Of course he doesn't have to commit a crime first; he's simply placed inside the prison next to his target.

  • Isaac Asimov's "Breeds There a Man...?": Dr Ralston goes to a police station to get himself jailed because he doesn't want to kill himself, but has a powerful urge to commit suicide. When the officer on duty tells him he can't be thrown in jail without committing a crime, he quickly racks up three charges: resisting an officer, assault and battery, and malicious mischief.
  • CHERUB Series: In book 3, Maximum Security, Teen Superspy James Adam's assignment is to go undercover in an Arizonan maximum-security juvenile prison and engineer the escape of himself and one of the juvenile inmates. The plan is that the inmate he is helping to escape will lead them to his fugitive mother, a wanted international black-market arms dealer. He does this by posing as a juvenile with a felony record, which is faked by the FBI.
  • The homeless protagonist of the O. Henry story "The Cop and the Anthem" wants to pull this so he can spend the winter off the streets. He falls victim to one of O. Henry's usual ironic twist endings. His several attempts fail because the cops and restaurant owners keep coming down with the Christmas spirit and letting him off the hook. Eventually he hears a hymn from a church and decides to turn his life around and go straight—and then a passing cop arrests him for loitering.
  • The short story "Jailbird" from Classic Singapore Horror Stories revolves around Robin Wong, a 24-year-old post-graduate, accepting an offer to be imprisoned for 3 months, in exchange for an exorbitant sum of 200,000 Singapore dollars. It Goes Horribly Wrong from there.
  • A big part of the Agatha Christie short story "The Disappearance of Mister Davenheim". The titular character has been embezzling from his bank and plans to run away with the goods, so he robs his own safe, vanishes, and gets himself arrested under an assumed identity as a drifter and pickpocket.
  • Discworld has Done-It Duncan, who'll confess to anything in order to spend the night in jail, where he's safe from other criminals and gets something to eat. He almost never actually did it, and the Watch puts up with him because he inadvertently (on his part) gives them information about the crimes; usually including naming the actual perpetrator(s)....
    • In Guards! Guards!, Vimes finds Vetinari in the dungeon, and after finding an "escape" route for himself realizes that Vetinari was probably the safest person in the city at that point and was essentially using the dungeon as a fortress. As a semi-retired Assassin, he could certainly have resisted being put in the dungeon if he hadn't planned to stay there all along.
  • The Executioner. In "Savannah Swingsaw", Mack Bolan discovers an elite KGB assassin is after a petty embezzler, so he gets thrown into prison in order to get close to the kid, avert the plot and find out why he's being targeted. Hal Brognola creates a fake criminal record, but Bolan commits a burglary so he'll be caught by local police. Things go pear-shaped when some fellow vigilantes recognise Bolan and bust him out, thinking they're doing him a favour.
  • In the Desmond Bagley thriller The Freedom Trap (filmed in 1973 as The Mackintosh Man), the protagonist robs a courier of his cargo of diamonds, but is caught thanks to an anonymous tip-off (it's implied that he was set up, as there's a perjured witness who identifies him). The diamonds are never recovered so the judge gives him a heavy sentence. A professional gang specializing in prison breaks offers to free him in exchange for a cut of the loot. It's only after his escape that the audience discovers that he's actually an undercover agent out to expose the gang.
  • The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School, set in a school for future superheroes (and sometimes future supervillains), has an epilogue in which the protagonist, as an adult, goes to a notorious Extranormal Prison to visit the newest inmate, the Broken Doll, who she was at school with. She arrives just in time to witness the Broken Doll stage a daring break-out, taking with her several valuable and dangerous artifacts that were being held in the prison for safe-keeping. They don't get a chance to chat, but it's strongly implied that the Broken Doll let herself be caught as a way of getting through the prison's defenses and close to the artifacts.
  • Sazed in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy deliberately gets himself thrown into jail to bust Vin back out.
  • Murder for the Modern Girl: As part of Maggie's plan, Peter shape-shifts into Ruby and goes to jail in her place, staying there for a whole day. This foils Ferry's plan of framing Ruby for Comissioner Walsh's death when he calls the police and is informed that "Ruby" is already in jail.
  • In his final novel, Quiller discovers a witness who has evidence that can bring down a high-ranking boss of The Mafiya has been thrown into The Gulag. He gets himself sent there too (though only by faking the conviction papers) even though no-one has ever escaped before.
  • In Victoria Hanley's The Seer and the Sword, Landen exploits his bounty to get into the castle.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat does this at both ends of his career:
    • In A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, a young DiGriz allows himself to get caught in the belief that he'll meet criminal masterminds in prison who'll teach him the art of crime. As it turns out, he only meets the losers who were dumb enough to be caught. He does have to try to get into an actual prison rather than juvenile hall. When the judge is about to give him a reduced sentence, he flips out in court and attacks a reporter, causing the judge to lose all sympathy.
    • The Distant Finale of the series is a short story where the Rat, as an old man, apparently loses his touch and gets arrested and imprisoned. It turns out he's still got it, and let himself get caught as the first step of a plan to bust an old friend out of the prison.
  • In Three Men in a Boat, when George and J. can't find their boat in the middle of the night and all the hotels in the neighborhood are full, George suggests they beat up a policeman and get accommodation in jail. J. considers it for a while but refuses: the policeman might hit them back and they might land behind bars for more than one night.
  • Happens in Warbreaker when Vasher gets arrested in order to get Breath from a captured rebel.
    Vasher (thinking): It's funny how many things begin with me getting thrown in prison.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow:
    • In "Keep Your Enemies Closer", John Diggle's ex-wife is in a prison in Russia, so Oliver Queen's friend in the Bratva provides Diggle with a bag of drugs and arranges for him to be arrested. Once in prison, a guard on the Bratva payroll is meant to get him to where his ex is being held.
    • In "Tremors", the guards at Blackgate Prison laugh at their latest inmate who was caught robbing a store across the road from a police station. Turns out he's been paid to smuggle Wolverine Claws inside his body so Bronze Tiger can escape.
  • An early episode of The A-Team had an episode where Hannibal, BA, and Murdock tried to get arrested as part of the plan to get thrown in jail to break up an illegal prison fighting ring.
  • One episode of Batman (1966) had The Penguin try this after acquiring samples of various rich people's handwriting because a forger has been imprisoned next to his usual cell.
  • The Blacklist: This is the driving force of the series with Raymond Reddington turning himself in for a lifetime of crime to help the FBI take down other criminals.
  • In Burn Notice, Michael asks to be put in prison for a week to protect a friend of Sam. This ends with a prison riot, and the man who wants Sam's friend dead being broken out of prison, and set up to go right back. Mike manages to get in by use of the two FBI agents who owe him a favor from a previous episode.
  • In the Castle episode "Witness for the Prosecution", Castle gets himself purposefully thrown in jail on a "contempt of court" charge so he can have a private conversation with the defendant of a murder trial, without her lawyer being present.
  • Chris Ryan's Strike Back. John Porter gets arrested in Zimbabwe for dealing in illicit diamonds so he'll be thrown into a high-security prison where a British national is accused of trying to kill Robert Mugabe. Porter's job is to break the Brit out, interrogate and then kill him.
  • Constantine (2014): In "The Saint of Last Resorts, Part 2", Chas needs to get inside of the prison. After floundering it for a bit, he says "screw it" and punches the guard. He gets his ass kicked, but it works.
  • The Criminal Minds episode "Fatal" kicks off at a police station where a man barges in begging to spend the night because he received a death threat. Since said threat is an anonymous note, he isn't taken seriously and the officers there tell him to go to a hotel. He grabs a trash can and flings it at an officer, who now obligingly arrests him. It didn't help. He'd already been poisoned with arsenic, so he's found dead in his cell the next morning.
  • Doctor Who: At the start of "Revolution of the Daleks", the Doctor has been incarcerated in an asteroid prison that even she can't get out of. Fortunately, her old friend Jack Harkness finds out she's there and commits a few crimes (maybe more than a few) to get himself incarcerated along with his escape equipment. Apparently, it took nineteen years for him to work his way to an adjourning cell, but as they're both time travelers this isn't much of a problem plot-wise.
  • Due South:
    • A key witness is behind bars and Fraser's partner is jailed for contempt. Fraser gets himself arrested to join them and be in position to protect them. He's such a straight arrow that he can't bring himself to shoplift a candy bar, and his police friends have to plant it on him.
    • Fraser gets himself interred in a mental hospital (to help break Ray out) by showing up in his RCMP uniform and telling them the unaltered truth of how he ended up in Chicago.
  • Fargo: In "Eating the Blame", Lester punches a cop in order to get arrested and away from Numbers and Wrench. Numbers and Wrench later stage a bar brawl and get arrested and placed in the same cell as Lester.
  • Father Brown: In "The Penitent Man", Flambeau frames himself for murder and then pleads guilty to ensure he is placed in the condemned cell at the prison, where he knows a priceless gold medallion is concealed.
  • Done by Max in Get Smart to get back a microfilm he'd planted onto a tooth of a convict being sent to prison.
  • Hannibal has an extremely dark variant: an aging Serial Killer who lets himself be caught after forty years because "Prison is going to be a luxury next to the kind of retirement home I can afford."
  • Jack of All Trades: In "Croquey in the Pokey", when Governor Croque gets thrown into jail for an attempted assassination of Napoleon, Jack has to follow suit to protect him from every thug he's ever sentenced.
  • The eponymous protagonist of Jessica Jones (2015), having majorly crossed the Despair Event Horizon, attempts this in the first season, believing (irrationally) it's the only way she'll be able to keep everyone else around her safe while luring Kilgrave into displaying his talent on-camera. To ensure she gets into jail, she brings her neighbor Ruben's severed head into the nearest police station and dumps it on the detective's desk. Unfortunately, Kilgrave is, as usual, steps ahead of her.
  • Janus: At one point, Shirl Hennessey is so tired of her crazy family she's willing to go to jail rather than fight the charges when she's arrested carrying a concealed weapon. She tells her barrister Michael Kidd that she doesn't have money to pay him, so he offers to defend her for free, leading to an amusing scene where she has to repeatedly stop Kidd in court as he tries to get the sentence reduced.
  • In Justified, Boyd Crowder assaults a US Marshal in a federal courthouse in front of dozens of witnesses. He assaulted a federal agent on federal property specifically so he would be sent to the federal prison rather than county jail. Once inside he bribes a crooked guard to be placed in the right cell. He is trying to get close to Dickie Bennett who is in the prison awaiting trial on federal charges. Raylan figures this out and tried to thwart the plan by having the charges dropped and Boyd released.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Olivia knows that one of the corrections officers at Sealview Women's Prison has been raping and abusing inmates (as well as the 14-year-old daughter of at least one of them), so to catch him, she goes undercover as a woman named Katrina Rae Lewis sent there for a theft or something, complete with a fake past record of an abusive father and an abusive ex-husband. She ends up getting nearly raped by that CO before Finn (undercover there as a CO) comes in.
  • Little Lunch: In "The Oval", Melanie deliberately kicks a ball into a window so she will get detention because it is preferable to being stuck in Rory's Calvinball game.
  • Lost Girl
    • In "Caged Fae", Bo robs a bank and then throws away the money. It's all a plan to provide Girls Behind Bars fanservice...ahemm! to solve the Mystery of the Week.
    • In "Into the Dark", Vex pranks The Morrigan by making her Involuntary Dance to MC Hammer. She responds by throwing him into a Dark Fae prison, which is what he wanted as he needed to get away from his enemies.
  • Done in the Mission: Impossible episode "Old Man Out". Of course, the IMF stacks the deck in their favor to get the result they want. Rollin is arrested for pickpocketing right outside the prison, and the arresting officer is Dan Briggs disguised as someone high-ranked enough to order the prison to hold him till he can be charged.
  • In My Name Is Earl, Randy misses Earl so badly that he takes the exam to become a prison guard...and since he scored at least 50%, he passes. However, he's such a bumbling idiot that just like on the outside, Earl ends up protecting Randy instead. (Sometimes from other prisoners, sometimes from Randy himself.) Before that, Randy stole a car and parked it on a median strip hoping to get caught, but he never did.
  • Person of Interest.
  • The Practice: To avenge a deceased relative, a man kills the hitman and arranges to serve his sentence at the very same prison where the person who hired the hitman was serving time for another crime.
  • The entire premise of Prison Break. A man is Wrongly Accused and his brother, Michael Scofield, commits a bank robbery so he'll be caught and thrown into the same prison (Scofield pleads 'no contest' on condition he's sent to a prison near his home) to help him escape. It helps that Scofield designed the prison, and the design is now tattooed onto his body.
  • Played for Laughs in the The Red Skelton Show episode "The Cop and the Anthem" (an adaptation of the O. Henry short story mentioned under Literature): Freddie the Freeloader plans to celebrate Christmas by running up a huge bill at a fancy restaurant, admitting he's broke, and getting sent to the relative comfort of prison. However, people keep letting him off the hook out of Christmas spirit. Ironically, as soon as he feels inspired to get a job and make something of his life, he's arrested for loitering.
    Freddie: Warm cells, soft mattresses, three square meals a day... if I get there in time, I can hang my stocking up with the rest of the fellas!
  • Shadow and Bone: Once he's assigned to the First Army, the first thing Malyen Oretsev does is look up his childhood friend Alina Starkov, only to be told she's been thrown into the brig for striking the quartermaster after he insulted her. Mal looks up the quartermaster and decks him, both getting payback on her behalf and ensuring he'll be thrown into the same brig. Of course she'd have been released eventually, so it's presented as a Friendship Moment that he'd do this.
  • In the Supernatural Prison Episode "Folsom Prison Blues", the Winchesters get deliberately caught so they can remove a ghost haunting the prison. The warden was the one who called them in, which helped.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Vick finds one of his targets has been thrown into jail, so he follows suit by the simple method of walking up to a group of police officers and punching one of them. Of course being a Terminator he can get out at any time just by knocking the cell door off its hinges. Notably, this one manages to get around the big issue of being sent to the same area as the prisoner in question, because the target is in temporary holding, just like Vick would be when assaulting a cop. Once he's inside, he can literally just rip the doors off the walls until he finds his target.
  • In Veronica Mars, Logan takes a tire iron to a police car in order to get thrown into a holding cell...with the guys who nearly raped Veronica. We get a nice Oh, Crap! look from them, and the scene ends.
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "Diamonds Are Almost Forever", one of the thieves arranges to be caught red-handed stealing the diamonds so he will spend the night in jail. This is part of the plan to destroy the remaining evidence when the diamonds disappear from the police safe overnight.
  • In World's Wildest Police Videos, one of the videos has a guy who was already in jail, but was going to be released soon. He suddenly jumps up and decks an officer that was casually walking by and was carted back to his cell on new charges. Apparently, his gang thought he was a snitch, and he was afraid that they would kill him on the outside.

    Video Games 
  • At one point in Baldur's Gate II you have to get yourself sent to Spellhold — which is actually the local asylum, but it plays out similarly. The funny way to do so is to tell the local Lord you must be deranged because you travel with Minsc. After being subjected to Minsc's conversation for a few minutes he wholeheartedly agrees and sends you there forthwith. You can also preserve your dignity by letting another character use his influence to get you in just as easily.
  • A sidequest in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion involves getting yourself imprisoned to gain the trust of an inmate, who you are told has hidden a stash of treasure somewhere.
  • Excelsior Phase One Lysandia: The PC must speak to a political prisoner, and so when the guards mention they're looking for a murderer and ask if the player knows who he is, the PC turns himself in.
  • It's mentioned in the lore of Fallout that in the years before the Great War, America was facing major shortages of basically everything, and rioters would attack the police or National Guard personnel, hoping to get sent to prisons where they'd be fed.
  • Grand Theft Auto 2 features a mission where the Rednecks want the protagonist to shoot up Alma Mater Prison from the inside. The player has to get arrested while selling moonshine to get in.
  • In Silent Hill: Downpour, it's revealed that Murphy stole a police car and led the cops on a chase so that he would be locked up in the same prison as the man who murdered his son, providing Murphy an opportunity to kill him.
  • Sly 2: Band Of Thieves: A scene much like the trope image occurs in one chapter. Bentley's plan for getting Murray out of Contessa's prison requires the character to be in the solitary cell block, so since Murray isn't there yet, the player gets a mission of him brawling it out with the other prisoners until the guards decide it's enough.
    The Murray: You're going to throw me in solitary? Bring it ON!!
  • This is how you get to join the terrorists in Splinter Cell: Double Agent.
  • In Watch_Dogs, Aiden Pearce gets himself arrested so he can reach a witness and intimidate him into silence.
  • In Yakuza 0, Omi Alliance brass Homare Nishitani has his own personal jail cell at the Osaka precinct thanks to his friendships with a few corrupt cops, including his foster father Billiken. As he notes, since there are guards everywhere, and you'd have to go to jail to get at him, it's effectively "the best hideout taxpayer money can buy." When he decides he wants to leave, the jail cell is left unlocked and he can just walk out.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the final case of Trials and Tribulations, after Iris is arrested for murder, Larry, who's smitten with her, contemplates stealing Detective Gumshoe's wallet in order to follow her there, then decides against it because he "can't do that to someone who looks like he's down on his luck."
    Larry: "Whenever I find a girl I like, they always run away! I even chased one of them to Tibet… Next it’s going to be prison, I guess. …I’ll steal that detective’s wallet. That’ll get me locked up for sure."

  • The Best Gamepiece Photocomic: Parodied when Val decides to get herself arrested so she can get Wasp out of prison. Val, being a massive Cloudcuckoolander, decides the best way to do this is to walk up to a police officer and report herself (not turn herself in, report herself, as you would report someone else) for "reverse jaywalking", a.k.a. legally crossing the street, which eventually gets her arrested for wasting the officer's time.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara gets herself arrested for (bogus) Earthbending so she can find the Fire Nation's Earthbender-proof prison and free the prisoners.
  • In one episode of C.O.P.S. (Animated Series), Rock Krusher walked into the police station and tried to rob the place. He was easily apprehended, but what he really wanted was to be sent to prison as part of the Big Boss' latest crooked scheme. Luckily for him, he actually sort of likes prison life.
  • In one episode of Darkwing Duck, Darkwing pretends to be a supervillain so he can get thrown into supervillain prison. Getting arrested turns out to be ludicrously difficult, however. Made especially silly since there is no reason the police would be unwilling to assist him in his infiltration.
  • An episode of The Deputy Dawg Show has Muskie doing what he can to get arrested as Deputy Dawg put the henhouse in the jail as security. Muskie winds up getting arrested for kicking the sheriff in the shin and locked up, only Deputy Dawg has put the henhouse back in its proper location.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, Jackie is guised up as a criminal to get into jail to find a MacGuffin. He did this to stop the bad guys, who Got Into Jail Free in order to release a demon.
  • King of the Hill: Hank gets himself arrested to talk to Bill, who'd been put in jail on a petty charge after getting estranged from the gang. Humorously, Hank's first idea is to jaywalk in front of a cop (he waits for the light to switch and then walks), assuming this is enough. His second attempt is even tamer: taking off his shirt in a convenience store while pointing out the "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" sign and attempting to surrender to a couple of cops buying sodas - at which point he's informed "it's not officially a law" (and the clerk rubs it in further by mentioning he doesn't even enforce the store policy). Finally, he decides to give one of their cars a light bump with his truck. Of course, their reaction is immediate and angry — he's in jail quickly.
  • In the Mega Man (Ruby-Spears) cartoon, Megaman decided the best way to get to Dr. Light and Roll in the Wily-run future was to get himself arrested, so he hit a copbot over the head with a lamppost. It worked.
  • At the end of season one of The Owl House, Eda's been arrested. Luz and King's plan to get her out relies on doing something so twisted, so diabolical, they'll be brought to the Conformitorium. So they make sure a guard sees them standing on the grass next to a "Keep off the grass" sign. It works like a charm.
  • Parodied in Robot Chicken following Paris Hilton's arrest. Her The Simple Life co-star Nicole Richie robs a bank to get arrested and break her out, but the bank teller she's robbing points out that she might just get probation, so she kills him. When she's arrested, the officer points out that, since she's a celebrity, she'll still be out in a matter of days (as would Paris in the first place).
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Deception", Obi-Wan fakes his own death, is disguised as the bounty hunter who supposedly killed him, and is arrested and sent to the Republic Judiciary Central Detention Center to stop a scheme on kidnapping the Chancellor.
  • Young Justice (2010) does this with a twist: a collection of ice villains all get arrested on the same day, so they can help with a break-out from Belle Reve. Two of them get sent to Belle Reve right away, and the Justice League get clued something is up when the other two arrange to get sent there as well—Mr. Freeze suing to be considered legally sane and Icicle Jr. suing to be tried as an adult. So Superboy and Miss Martian disguise themselves as captured supervillains so they can infiltrate and find out what's going on.


Video Example(s):


Silly Alaskan Laws

The Tobins explain some of the crazy laws they have in Alaska (which are actually real laws in real life). When Beef purposely breaks one of those laws to get thrown in jail, the rest of his family do the same to celebrate his birthday with him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / LoonyLaws

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