Follow TV Tropes


Girls Behind Bars

Go To

Marshall: Spending ten months undercover in a women's prison? I can think of worse.
Mary: You do know it's not all lingerie and pillow fights?
Marshall: But it is sometimes, right?

Women's prison is a setting that stands out for how scarce its depictions are... outside of porn that is. At most, only expect a vague allusion but the instances where the lives of female inmates are featured are vanishingly rare in comparison to those of male inmates. And the only thing that most people recall about women's prison is its fetish potential.

In short, women's prisons are hotbeds of... uh... intrigue. For instance, if there's a female detective character, it's practically a law that she be sent to prison undercover or be wrongly accused and temporarily incarcerated at least once.

Still, an unfortunate effect of Most Writers Are Male is that most of them have never been to a women's prison, nor do they know how life is really like inside of it. It can be because male inmates aren't allowed in. It may be because female offenders aren't considered as violent, dangerous or despicable as male offenders and thus less worthy of scrutiny - never mind that being in a prison means they are ostensibly guilty of one or more crimes in the first place. It almost certainly involves a (possibly subconscious) downplaying of violence between females inmates, as acknowledging that would mean treating the loss of female life in the same way as loss of male life. It may even be because there are a lot more male prisoners than female. Or it may be because they just didn't bother with research.

But, let's face it, it's because many writers assume women's prisons are a lesbian porn heaven. In sharp contrast to men's prisons, women's prisons are always believed to be a fetish station where women learn to be intimate with one another (which doesn't involve rape at all, oh no). And of course, female guards partake joyfully in it as well as any male staff lucky enough to work in this palace of pleasure! It also goes without saying that the women are no older than mid-30's and beautifully feminine, except perhaps for a few tough dominant ones who run the prison and initiate newcomers into the lesbian prison environment. Depending on how dirty-minded the audience is, and the time slot, this may result in a sort of Chekhov's Gun scenario as the audience expects... action. In a movie or late-night cable TV show, there will be at least one Shower Scene or strip-search.

Needless to say, the above description is purely fantasy and NOT Truth in Television, except maybe for the shower scenes and the nude searches, which also happen in men's prisons. In Real Life, women's prisons are populated with the same ilk as the men's: convicted felons who run the full gamut of age, body type, appearance, and potential for violence. Just because they're women doesn't mean they are more peaceful and gentle. The daily fight for dominance also applies there, catfights tend to involve the use of shivs, and the Alpha Bitches are just as ruthless and physically violent as Alpha Dogs in men's prisons, especially to newcomers who happen to be prettier than them. In an all-female setting, beauty is a hindrance, not an asset. Also, just like in men's prisons, sexual violence—at the hands of corrections staff as well as fellow prisoners—is a very real and constant threat. And if the rapist is a man, there's the additional risk of an inmate becoming pregnant in the worst possible environment for such.

One character unique in this setting is the Prison Matron. Any jail that houses female inmates will have at least one female officer whose job is to see to gender-specific needs, such performing or overseeing strip searches, medical care, and any other situation where an inmate would otherwise be alone with a likely-male staff member. Beyond that, the matron's duties vary based on the time period and jurisdiction, but she's the highest female authority in the prison and either works alongside the warden or is the warden-equivalent. She will visually resemble the Apron Matron unless the setting is pornographic, in which case she'll be beautiful (but still middle-aged) and not above engaging in sexual shenanigans with her charges.

This trope is a case of Situational Sexuality to pander to the audience. Might be used as an Excuse Plot for a Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss. May contain offensive tropes like Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female. The presence of The Queenpin among the inmates is often telltale of a rare Darker and Edgier take on the trope as this kind of character is usually not that fond of other women.

This is also a Super-Trope with the same basic genre elements being transported to a number of different prison-like settings or more specific types of prison, such as reform schools or "jungle prison", even coining unique terms for the sub-genre, like Nunsploitation or Nazisploitation. Typically this means a change of costume or scenery, but little else.

Compare Prison Rape and Wondrous Ladies Room (another trope whose fallaciously ideal depiction of women is due to Most Writers Are Male).

See also: Chained Heat, Forced Prize Fight.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Lagoon alludes to this when Revy threatens Janet to "show her her stuff" if she ever tried to have sex with Rock, tellingly hinting at how she would make every other inmate her bitch back in prison.
  • Cross Ange makes heavy use of the fetish potential, with an all-female population on a military prison island. Besides the typical hijinks in the locker rooms and showers/baths, the squadron commander has herself a small harem and attempts to force Ange to join.
  • In one chapter of Excel♡Saga, Excel and Elgala are on a boat headed for an island women's prison. A guard mentions that "they will be subjected to tortures both savage and sensual!"
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean: Averted. The story revolves around protagonist Jolyne Kujo being framed for murder and sent to prison, but it's shown as a fairly bleak-as-Real Life women's prison, not romanticized in the slightest and full of things like near-deadly fights, monetary extortion, and solitary confinement as punishment. (Although definitely filled with Artistic License as JoJo tends to be with many things.)
  • Sengoku Collection: An episode is an homage to Japanese women's prison film Joshuu Sasori (Female Prisoner Scorpion).

    Comic Books 
  • Bitch Planet is all about this, set in a Penal Colony on a prison planet for Non-Compliant women.
  • Supergirl story Adventure Comics #394: Heartbreak Prison" features Supergirl and half dozen of females put behind bars in the titular alien escape-proof pen.
  • Catwoman #80 features said character being thrown into a women's prison. It includes catfights and a shower scene.
  • Gold Digger #82 has Gina Diggers doing time in a women's prison. The comic includes a shower scene and a fight with the head bitch.
  • Grimm Fairy Tales: The "Lockdown" arc (#76-81) features Sela in a women's prison. Plenty of the standard tropes apply, including a Shower Scene, a fight with the Butch Lesbian, etc.
  • Homaged in the Hack/Slash story "Interdimensional Women's Prison Breakout", with obligatory Sexy Packaging.
  • Happens to Ms. Tree in the "Prisoner in Cell Block Hell" storyline. Despite the general realism of the series, this arc does include the obligatory shower scene and a fight with the Alpha Bitch of the cell block.
  • O'Brien spends time in a women's prison during The Punisher MAX arc where Frank is going after Nicky Cavella and his men for pissing on his family's remains. Being a Punisher MAX story, O'Brien's arc is played for drama rather than titillation as she fights viciously to keep the other convicts from raping her, and breaks out when they kill a guard and stick the shiv in her hand.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • In the Golden Age Diana once helped a woman aiming to become the first warden of a women's prison near Washington D.C. and spent a week or so at the prison helping implement reforms that included getting rid of the uniforms and giving all the inmates more fashionable clothes.
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Visits to Mala while she's overseeing her prisoners on Reformation Island have the all female inmates wearing skimpy clothes, restraints that very intentionally bring bondage to gear, sing the praises of said bondage themed restraints and participate in training fights and ambiguously gay adoration of Mala and each other.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): The covers play up the fanservice angle when Wondy is imprisoned on an all female slave planet with a bunch of extraterrestrial humanoid women. The comics themselves do not, though her outfit does end up rather revealing as she adjusted it into short shorts and a midriff revealing top due to the heat.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live Action 
  • In The Big Bird Cage, Terry, a social-climbing young woman accidentally gets caught up in the activities of two revolutionaries, Blossom and Django, and finds herself in a concentration camp for women. In the center of the camp is a towering wooden machine ("The Big Bird Cage") in which the women risk their lives processing sugar as the evil warden looks on. The prisoners are subjected to sadistic cruelty from the guards and fellow prisoners, and all attempts at escape are dealt with - permanently.
  • Pam Grier's first film role was in The Big Doll House which is probably the real Trope Maker for the genre.
  • Black Mama, White Mama: The first part of the film contains all the tropes you can expect from a Girls Behind Bars movie, with sexy women in (very) skimpy prison uniforms, sadistic guards, lesbian innuendo, catfights and a matron who spies on her inmates when they are showering. Then two of the prisoners (one a revolutionary, the other a prostitute jailed for drug-related crimes) manage to escape from a prisoner transport while chained together and the movie turns into an action story.
  • Born American (1986). One of the protagonists in the gulag gets hold of a coin and tries to purchase medical care for his friend. The Friend in the Black Market says it's not enough, but as the protagonist is a young man he could use it to buy... (puts a finger through hole in coin and leers) We then cut to several male inmates, including the protagonist, looking through vents into the women's shower. Contrary to the usual examples of this trope, the women are rather unshapely.
  • Bound invokes this trope by depicting Butch Lesbian Corky (Gina Gershon) as a former inmate.
  • Caged, a 50's film that is considered a classic example of women in prison. It's something of an Unbuilt Trope, as the story is more of a film noir - showing how the innocent Marie Allen is slowly corrupted by the system and becomes just as cold and ruthless as her fellow prisoners. It's pretty much a gender flipped version of any male prison story, without the fetish elements of a usual Girls Behind Bars story.
  • Chained Heat (1983) is the first in a series of movies fetishizing female prisoners in the late-night genre.
  • "When You're Good to Mama" from Chicago
  • In Diary of a Lost Girl Thymian is in a reformatory for "wayward women", so technically not a prison, but the girls are being held prisoner there, so basically it is. And like this trope usually plays out, there's all kinds of lesbianism, including an evil Depraved Homosexual headmistress, another inmate who plays Footsie Under the Table with Thymian, and other inmates who simply crawl into bunks together in the communal barracks. The most surprising thing is the year this movie came out—1929.
  • Played with in Freeway. On one side, you have the typical lesbian inmate Rhonda (Brittany Murphy) who hits on Vanessa (Reese Witherspoon) and on the other hand, the dominant Mesquita (Alanna Ubach) who immediately provokes Vanessa to a physical fight over who's the baddest bitch, thus the one in command.
  • Girls In Prison, a 1994 film that is an example of the innocent woman in prison plotline. However, many cliches were also subverted, as it's shown to be a realistically violent, dangerous place (the main character has a hit on her by the real killers), with just one same-sex relationship shown and only a couple nude scenes which are in the prison showers (however even then most prisoners are pretty attractive). It's set in the early 1950's, slightly campy at times, and possibly a send-up of films like this from the period.
  • Gothika is a notable aversion, despite being an asylum for the criminally insane, featuring an all-female prison with NO porn-like scene. The Shower Scene, for instance, features a bunch of inmates in which some are unattractive or old, like a Real Life women's prison would feature. Scenes in recreation rooms consist of those women often sobbing, staring blankly, or gabbling to themselves.
  • Rather grimly subverted with House of Whipcord, a horror film about women being unwillingly captured in a secret prison for committing 'immoral' crimes (the protagonist is a model who had a nude picture taken in public). While there is nudity, it's straight up Fan Disservice and the flogging is decidedly unsexy. Unfortunately the poster - and the fact that it's directed by exploitation filmmaker Pete Walker - make it appear like a straight example.
  • Averted in Jackie Brown, with a realistic view of women's prison.
  • Jailbait (2014) is set in a woman's prison. There are liberal amounts of lesbian sex and underwear is apparently a privilege only earned after the first year. However, it also shows sexual assault and violence as common. The warden is revealed as coercing many of the prisoners into sex in return for favors, which the main character (who's herself a victim of this) reveals eventually, getting him arrested.
  • Joshuu Sasori (Female Prisoner Scorpion), a Japanese women's prison movie that sparked a series of sequels and copycats. Thing is, the prison in question is full of feuding, scheming inmates and the whole film is a deconstruction of the genre, shot through with sadistic torment and unexpected surrealism. The only person who behaves like the stereotypical sexpot prisoner is an undercover warden with zero in-story credibility.
  • Ladies They Talk About is an early example from The Pre-Code Era.
  • The zombie movie Planet Terror has the two heroines behind bars for a scene in the third act. Also, WOMEN IN CAGES!
  • Not the case in Madea Goes to Jail, to Big Sal's (initial) chagrin and Madea's relief regarding Tee Tee.
  • Reform School Girls is intended to be a spoof of the genre, but instead winds up being an Indecisive Parody.
  • Stranger Inside focuses on a plot about a teenage girl who gets herself into prison just to be close to her biological birth mother. While inside, she experiments with another female innate as most of the female inmates are in relationships with each other.
  • Parodied in the Strangers with Candy film. The opening Shower Scene features women who, well... look like the women you'd actually see in a women's prison.
  • In Suffragette the protagonists are imprisoned for ... taking part in a demonstration for women's voting rights. Which law exactly forbids this is not clear, and they are also not treated as political prisoners, but as common criminals, and forced to strip and change into prison clothes, an additional humiliation designed to discourage them from standing up for their rights. The prison is not depicted as comfy, but realistically depicted as the horrid place a women's prison of that era would be - grey, cold cells, bad food, sadistic guards, and fellow prisoners who are too overworked and underfed to even think of entertaining violence or lesbian sexy times. When the protagonist goes on hunger strike, she's force-fed, in a way that looks like torture. Which is probably what is is intended as, as the reason it is done is because the government doesn't want the women's rights movement to have a martyr. The only nice thing about the protagonist's stay in prison is the fact that she's given flowers and a medal by fellow suffragists when she's finally released and walks out of the prison door.
  • Roger Corman's Swamp Diamonds (as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000). Undercover cop, check; struggle for dominance, check; Beverly Garland as a Psycho for Hire, bonus!
  • Tank Girl. Tank Girl and Jet Girl spend some time incarcerated in Water and Power's coed prison.
  • Under Lock And Key, a B-Movie with the classic undercover female cop plot.
  • Werewolf In A Womens Prison. Nuff said.

  • In the first book of the Birthright trilogy, All These Things I've Done, Anya Balanchine, the anti-heroine, spends some time in a female correctional facility. She's a mafiosa and murder suspect, though ironically, at the time of her imprisonment, she hasn't actually done anything yet. Unusual to the trope, the correctional facility Anya is sent to is more akin to male depictions of prison, unglamorous, with ruthless occupants, abusive wardens, and desperation to leave.
  • In the Danielle Steel novel Malice, the heroine is sent to prison for killing her sexually abusive father (no one believed her, thanks to his pillar of the community status). The depiction is fairly realistic, namely in that she's nearly assaulted by a group of other prisoners before her cellmate rescues her.
  • The prison in The Mental State is divided in half by a metal fence. All the male prisoners are kept on one side and all the female prisoners are kept on the other. One of the central character's goals is to secretly unite the two genders without the prison staff finding out.
  • In his book A Prison Diary about his own imprisonment, Jeffrey Archer tells that surprisingly, he heard that the level of violence is higher in women's prisons than men's. Men tend to restrict giving each other "hammerings" to more private places such as showers, whereas women do not: any time, any place will do.
  • Rose Under Fire is set in Ravensbrück, a women's concentration camp, during World War II.
  • The autobiographical novel Who Lie In Gaol described Holloway prison, and then then new idea of a prison without bars Askham Grange in the 1950s.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel shows Faith in jail a few times. Mostly it's the visitor's room, complete with telephones and a window, but there is a prison fight between two inmates in the yard. There is no fetishizing of the prison; mostly it looks like depictions of male prisons but with the inmates having longer hair.
  • The Bold and the Beautiful: While in a mental hospital for her various crimes, Sheila gets beaten up by two other prisoners. Their unpleasant appearance and demeanor, plus the way Sheila acts afterwards—taking a Shower of Angst—are clearly meant to imply that they sexually assaulted her as well. Even if not, the whole sequence still gives off a Does This Remind You of Anything? vibe. On the flip side, Sheila and the other prisoners get along great, giving off a "college—dorm" atmosphere.
  • Burn Notice does a fairly realistic depiction when Fiona goes to prison for awhile. While there, she has to fight the most dominant member of the prison and has to adapt to the harsh conditions. Of course, she does pretty well under the circumstances..... It should be noted that Fi as always been portrayed as a full fledged action girl, quite self-reliant, self confident, independent, and successful in pretty much every aspect of her life, both before, and after Michael showed up in Miami, yet when he visits her in prison she has an emotional breakdown, and Michael later informs his mother when asked, that she is eating very little, and is quite scared. This is all shown without a trace of chickification.
  • Capadocia depicts a for-profit womens's prison in Mexico where the inmates work making lingerie for the brand "Cautiva" ("Captive"), supposedly so they can earn wages and learn job skills. It does not shy away from the violence; the first season ends with protagonist Lorena beating to death another inmate in self-defense.
  • Charlie's Angels
    • All three angles went to prison, chained together in the aptly named episode "Angels in Chains."
    • This series liked the women's prison plot enough to use it a second time, albeit with only one Angel actually imprisoned in "Caged Angel."
  • Charlie's Angels (2011): The 2011 remake of the classic series had an episode where the Angels went to prison, titled "Angels in Chains" in homage of the original series episode. There are some notable differences; however, such as the prison being located in Cuba and the absence of a Shower Scene.
  • In one multi-part episode of Cheers, Sam and the other patrons uncovered Robin's plot to enact a hostile takeover of his company, using Rebecca as a pawn; in one scene, Sam was discussing what to do about it with the others, mentioning that Rebecca wouldn't last long in a women's prison. The conversation quickly turned into a fetish fantasy discussion between them on what she might wear if incarcerated. (They did this a lot, actually.) Sam: "Guys, no! Save it for the end of the day when we all have a moment to relax..."
  • Coronation Street has Fizz falsely in jail for murders committed by her husband John Stape.
  • In the CSI episode "XX", the CSI team investigate a murder inside a women's prison. However, the episode is devoid of most the tropes associated with women's prisons and shows it as a brutal and dangerous place to be.
  • Cookie from Empire spent 17 years in prison and the pilot episode centers on her release. Flashbacks to her life behind bars and the friends/enemies she made there are a recurring aspect of the show, and those scenes are not played for glamour. The women are a wide range of appearances and body types, and one of Cookie's friends in jail became pregnant after being raped by a guard. For what it's worth, the jail scenes weren't all bleak and violent. Cookie was also in the prison's book club.
  • The very first episode of Femme Fatales is set in a women's prison. While there is definitely same-sex erotic content, that's kind of inevitable since the series was built on it. However, they don't gloss over the violence, since the main character gets sexually assaulted by another prisoner the first time she showers, then rescued by the woman whom she's later involved with.
  • Occurs in an episode of La Femme Nikita.
  • General Hospital: Laura is wrongfully imprisoned. Aside from taking an instant dislike to her because of her cherubic looks, the other prisoners get even more ticked off when the police commissioner, a friend, comes to visit (a highly stupid move that he should have known would endanger her), assuming that she's a snitch. Luckily, she's bailed out before anything happens.
  • German TV series Hinter Gittern Der Frauenknast (English: "Behind bars - The Women's Prison")
  • The Late Show with David Letterman: when Martha Stewart was in prison for insider trading Letterman made many jokes implying that Stewart was in this kind of prison.
  • On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Olivia goes undercover at a women's prison in one episode. However, it is definitely not played for prurient amusement; in fact she's nearly raped by a guard and several later episodes show her dealing with the trauma. She went in to begin with because of allegations that said guard had raped several prisoners already (he was busted after the aforementioned assault on Olivia), and none of the usual tropes are in play.
  • Law & Order: UK. While investigating the murder of a prison guard, Matt and Ronnie note that one of the other guards is reluctant to talk. When the press him, it turns out that he's new and is reluctant to cause trouble, as, "it would be very easy to find yourself in the middle of a riot and no one coming to help you", thus making it quite clear that a women's prison is just as dangerous as its male counterpart. Indeed, the guard in question turns out to be an Asshole Victim who was forcing himself on several of the inmates.
  • Lexx had an episode where Xev went to prison, complete with a shower scene.
  • Spanish series Locked Up / Vis a Vis centres on a naive and idealistic woman sent to prison. In addition to the thriller aspect of the main plotline, it details more everyday problems of prison. This includes one inmate who is unable to get a heart transplant because she is convicted of murder, the main character trying to get bail, smuggling, prison rape, escape attempts, an abusive doctor, 'snitches', etc.
  • Lois & Clark has a two-part episode where Lois Lane is framed for murder and sent to a women's prison.
  • Lost Girl. The episode "Caged Fae" has Bo going undercover by getting herself thrown into a Fae prison run by a literal Amazon Brigade. It's... kinda porn-y, in keeping with the tone of the show.
  • In Luke Cage (2016) season 2's finale, when Mariah Dillard is awaiting trial in jail, she's shown in a cell block at Rikers where the Stokes, Stylers and Rosalie Carbone's gang all have female members, all of whom are depicted as violent.
  • Season 5 of The L Word sees Helena incarcerated in the La County Jail. The scenes include a strip search and shower, where she's hit on/threatened (however all other naked prisoners are unattractive). Also sex with her cellmate, who is very butch.
  • Mutant X, "The Taking Of Crows". While on a night out, Lexa has been unknowingly drugged with a lethal substance that wreaks havoc on her powers. Lexa is eventually stabilized but the team soon learn that she's going to die in 72 hours unless a cure is found. As such, Shalimar and Lexa go undercover, successfully getting arrested where they end up in a woman's prison meeting Dr. Sara Stanton who also happens to be the creator of the deadly drug Lexa was dosed with.
  • In My Name Is Earl, Joy frets about going to prison, because she knows that it's not lingerie and pillow fights. (Randy tries to convince her that it won't be so bad, because of this trope.)
  • NCIS episode "Caged" plays this realistically. McGee is at a women's' prison interviewing a murder suspect when a riot breaks out over the murder of a guard— and the female inmates prove very difficult to handle, one threatening to kill him repeatedly.
  • Orange Is the New Black: The series is a weird mix of racial and sexual stereotypes with much more realistic elements about life in prison. But the violence element is notably downplayed, at least until the arrival of a one-woman Apple of Discord in the second season. In the audio commentary for the first episode, the director states that they chose to start the series with a shower scene as a homage to the typical porn depiction of women's prisons.
  • Our Miss Brooks:
    • In "The Embezzled Dress" (a Sound-to-Screen Adaptation of "Student Banking"), Miss Brooks fears being sent to prison. Landlady Mrs. Davis had unknowingly spent the students' bank money left in Miss Brooks' care, thinking it was Miss Brooks' back rent. Walter Denton, trying to teach Miss Brooks up, tells her about the conditions at the State Prison for Women. It involves mopping the floors all day; as there are not enough mops to go around, many of the inmates have to clean the floors on their hands and knees.
    • In "Bobbsey Twins in Stir", Mrs. Davis, and later Miss Brooks, are briefly in jail after they're tricked into selling phony tickets to the policeman's ball.
  • Pacific Blue had an episode that guest starred WWE's Sable, with one of the (female) main characters going undercover into the prison and Sable playing the head bitch. Yes, there was a shower scene, and a couple different catfight scenes.
  • Alluded to in Peep Show, where Jeremy is put on jury service with a female defendant. He doesn't seem to grasp the reality of it, though, even thinking that women's prison was "probably like one long hen night".
  • In one episode of Police Woman from 1974, Detective Sergeant Pepper Anderson has to go undercover in a women's prison. Despite looking like a high-security facility from the outside, with guard towers and tall walls, the inside of the prison is rather "soft": the inmates don't have cells, but "rooms" (without doors), the furniture looks more comfortable than in most depictions of prisons, and the guards seem pretty nice for prison guards. The Fanservice aspect is mild: all the inmates are young, good-looking (with makeup and nice hairdos), wear uniforms consisting of sleeveless minidresses, and spend a lot of time walking around in their short nighties.
  • The Prison Break Made-for-TV Movie revolved around breaking Sarah out of a women's prison. However, while it's probably not as tough as most Real Life women's prisons, it still contains no small amount of gangs and violence.
  • Prisoner: Cell Block H was set in an Australian women's prison, and was at the time one of the more realistic depictions of this trope.
  • Red Dwarf series VIII was set in the eponymous spaceship's brig. In the episode "Krytie TV", Kryten is classified as a woman because of his lack of identifying male genitalia. Although his programming does not allow him to exploit that, Killcrazy and other prisoners kidnap him, reprogram him and make him secretly film and broadcast the women prisoners showering for the viewing of the male prisoners.
  • Subverted in the Seinfeld episode "The Little Jerry," where George goes on a tour of a women's prison, as he is in a relationship with one of the convicts, and is disappointed to discover it's a peaceful, minimum-security institution without a shower fight to be seen. His girlfriend is doing time for embezzlement, but breaks out to be with him.
  • An otherwise best forgotten episode of Stargate SG-1 had Carter lampshade this trope.
    Carter: Why do I feel like I'm in a women behind bars movie?
  • Walker, Texas Ranger. When Alex (a district attorney) is imprisoned, she's inexplicably placed in general population and sure enough, gets attacked by a pack of vengeful inmates, until she is saved by one inmate held on trumped-up charges.
  • The short-lived Fox sitcom Women In Prison featured six women prisoners, one of whom, the protagonist, was a newcomer, a socialite wrongly arrested and sentenced for shoplifting. Despite the comedy setting, there were a few moments of realism—the others dislike her due to her looks and previous social status, one prisoner is explicitly stated to be a murderer (albeit of her abusive husband). But otherwise, the general atmosphere was that of a strict college dorm—cell gates were left open with prisoners free to come and go as they pleased, prisoners wore their own clothes, cells were large and comfortable, etc.
  • One episode of Xena: Warrior Princess has her sent to a women's prison island for murdering a woman who turns out to be the very-much-alive commandant of the prison. It is, however, played entirely for drama rather than sex appeal.
  • Rhonda and Leanne start You, Me and the Apocalypse in a women's prison in New Mexico.


    Professional Wrestling 
  • The WOW Women of Wrestling Tag Team Caged Heat, named after the film, Loca and Delta Lotta Pain, who were the first and only WOW World Tag Team Champions until they were defeated by The All American Girls one year after the company's revival, and Vendetta, who mostly just hung around and did not return with them. They were billed from the Nevada State Correctional Facility, wore orange jumpsuits and their signature moves had such names as "Hard Time" (Bear Hug with top rope clothesline) and "Capital Punishment" (better known as The Dudley Boys' "Dudley Death Drop"/"3D," a combined flapjack and a "cutter"). Their entrance video showed them in prison rapping their theme songnote . The absence of logic in the fact that they were supposedly driven to the arena from prison, and then sent back after the match, was not even Handwaved away, as this promotion adhered to an old-school, straight-faced Kayfabe mentality, which is what would be expected from a promotion started by David McLane, who had previously created GLOW in The '80s. In 2000-2001, this was a decided contrast to WWE's Attitude Era, which was taking place at the same time. Despite the implications of their gimmick, they were VERY popular. The revival did come up with a reason for their presence (and absence of Vendetta). A lawyer named Sophia Lopez had been fighting to prove their innocence and finally did in 2012, for two of them.
  • More inline with 90s "Attitude" was a pay per view on demand called Wet Wrestling: The Shawshank Redemption. It was about convicts being forced to compete in a wrestling ring.
  • WOW's spiritual successors CRUSH and Wrestlicious featured a wrestler known as Felony (Cheerleader Melissa in the former, indie wrestler Rain in the latter). The gimmick worked on the premise she was allowed to wrestle on work release. She had to be led to the ring in handcuffs by her parole officer and a Running Gag would be Felony trying to escape from him whenever she got the chance. Her gear was a sexy version of the striped uniform.

  • "When You're Good to Mama" from most versions of Chicago.
  • Subverted in A Gulag Mouse, where the plays is set in a women's prison camp that is starkly realistic and brutal.
  • In Hairspray, the song "The Big Dollhouse" is about the women of the cast getting thrown in a holding cell after Tracey, Edna, and the black characters crash Mother-Daughter Day on The Corny Collins Show. Oddly enough, the song was cut from both the film and telecast versions.
  • Mo'Nique in her routine I Coulda Been You Cellmate, that is set in a women's institution, playfully toys with this trope about its implausibility.

    Video Games 
  • One of the storylines in the Japanese RPG SaGa Frontier opens with the main character, Emelia, having to escape from a women's prison.

    Web Animation 

  • Subverted in The Japanese Beetle when Kremlina goes to jail. The "top dog" tries to make her her bitch, only to get downed in one punch - which makes Kremlina the new top dog, complete with another inmate asking very politely to be her bitch.
  • Averted in Last Res0rt — There are plenty of female contestants, and yes, the show is in a prison, so while there ARE Girls Behind Bars, it's a relatively calm co-ed prison environment and the closest we get to a Shower Scene is one panel of Daisy from the shoulders up.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10, the porno version is naturally not an option, so when Gwen gets thrown in jail after Charmcaster forced a body-switch with her, a jail for girls looks a lot like... jail! Or rather, jail in a superhero show. She busts out rather easily, but it helps when you're in a mundane jail and have the body of a magic-wielding supervillain.
  • Duckman naturally parodied this. "Aged Heat 2: Women in Heat" opens with him getting arrested for killing Fluffy and Uranus. He was terrified of being sent to prison, until he found out that (thanks to a clerical error) he was taken to the federal women's penitentiary instead. He's about to point out he's not a woman, but then he sees the inmates exercising; two getting into a half-naked Mud Wrestling fight over what to play next (naked volleyball or nude weight-lifting) just seals the deal for him. Incidents include the warden forcing the inmates into an illegal dancing ring (with Duckman actually enjoying raking in the cash until a new girl replaced him) and a Prison Riot after the girls realize they got sciatica from "all this gratuitous mud fighting."
  • Family Guy:
    • In one episode, Peter reveals that he accidentally recorded over his and Lois' wedding video with "softcore cable porn"; the brief clips we're shown are of a Girls Behind Bars film.
    • Referenced in another episode, where Quagmire frets that what Peter is doing could land him in jail- "And not the good kind of jail, like on Cinemax! The man jail!"
    • The episode "Breaking Out Is Hard to Do" sees Lois sent to prison. When visiting with her family she remarks-"I'm just gonna have to lay back and let the penal system teach me a lesson."
    • In the episode "Dial Meg for Murder," Meg goes to prison and becomes a hardened criminal.
  • The Futurama movie "Into the Wild Green Yonder" has Leela, Amy and a bunch of other female characters from the show all get sent to a women's prison. While it's far from the nicest place, all these good friends are put in cells together and start painting toenails and the like.
  • Johnny Bravo had an episode where Johnny was falsely convicted of bank robbery and sent to a women's prison because of a typo on his birth certificate spelling his name "Joanie".
  • Averted entirely on The Simpsons where Marge Simpson goes to prison for a month, as the situation is Played for Drama and this particular trope is not even mentioned.
  • Tripping the Rift has a women's prison themed episode. It contains skimpy prison dresses, a shower scene, and a catfight during said shower scene.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):


Succubus In Prison

Bo realizes prison will be a bad time for her due to how the warden, the staff and the prisioners all lust after her.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / GirlsBehindBars

Media sources: