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In Prison with the Rogues

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"If you're thirsty for vengeance, you might wanna start with... the Flash. Barry Allen is the Flash, the same man who put you behind bars, and who will no doubt recapture you after you escape. That was probably his plan all along."
Warden Wolfe, The Flash (2014)

Things are looking bad for The Hero. They've racked up a bad reputation and are wanted by the cops, which eventually culminates in their arrest. So our hero is going to spend a while behind bars, until they either escape or clear their name, but it doesn't end there. What's the one thing worse than being locked up in prison? Being locked in prison with your Rogues Gallery. For whatever reason, the authorities feel like it's a good idea to put the hero in the same prison that is housing criminals the hero previously helped locked up. Sometimes it's justified in that the prison is required to have very high levels of security to contain the rogues and similar levels are deemed necessary to hold the hero. So now the hero is held in a compound with their worst enemies, all eager to tear them apart. As the hero is walked down the hallway, they pass by rows of cells with their rogues reaching out their arms and yelling scornfully at the do-gooder who put them in here.

This usually results in the inevitable breakout where the criminals escape confinement and the hero is forced to face off against all of their jailed rogues at once. Though worth noting, sometimes there are instances where a hero isn't imprisoned with their personal rogues, especially with cases of Knight Templars who do not tend to let their criminals live long enough to be incarcerated.

A Kangaroo Court can ensue if the hero's rogues actually take over the prison while he's there and decide to exact revenge on him in a way that mocks the judicial system that incarcerated them there in the first place.

Compare Conveniently Cellmates where the hero is put in the same cell as one of their enemies, which may or may not overlap with this. See also You All Meet in a Cell and Pariah Prisoner. It can result in an Enemy Mine if they band together to escape.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball GT, after Piccolo chooses to die with the Earth so that the Black Star Dragon Balls would die with him and never get misused again, he requests to get sent to Hell where he ends up with all the deceased villains imprisoned there. But this is what he wants, and he spends his days restoring order to the prison by beating troublemakers up.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman has been locked up in Arkham Asylum a few times as an inmate, with his rogues gallery for company. In the first arc of the Batman series Shadow of the Bat, "The Last Arkham", Batman is locked in Arkham Asylum, and while isolated at first, Jeremiah Arkham invokes the trope by having Batman fight Amygdala first and then the other villains, in an attempt to break Batman's spirit. It doesn't work, as Batman defeats them all.
  • Averted by Captain America who was incarcerated on Ryker's Island, used to house supervillains, but it was of his own will. He was put there intentionally so he could break out and test the prison's security.
  • In the Nintendo Comics System adaptation of Captain N: The Game Master, Samus Aran and Princess Lana are sentenced to the RX 338 prison. Samus's cell block is full of Metroid enemies, and at least one of them had been put away for life by Samus herself. They immediately gang up on her, mistakenly believing her to be helpless without her suit and weapons... and she promptly beats them all into submission.
  • In Daredevil, Ed Brubaker's run has the hero sent to the same prison as his enemies the Kingpin, Bullseye, Gladiator, the Owl, and other Marvel villains. Ironically, the Punisher immediately arranged for himself to end up in prison to protect Murdock, despite their own animosity.
  • In Green Lantern, a 1970s story had the hero jailed in the same cell block as his old enemy Black Hand and a horde of gangsters as part of an assassination scheme.
  • In New Avengers: it's revealed that Sentry is locked on The Raft by his own choice with the rest of the supervillains, the reason being that he was unable to control his own powers and killed his wife. However, during the jailbreak orchestrated by Electro, he comes to the aid of the heroes struggling against Carnage, where he snatches and grabs hold of the psychotic Symbiote and flies him into outer space where he proceeds to tear him apart.
  • The Punisher:
    • While Frank rarely arrests criminals, many storylines have him end up in prison in the company of survivors or relatives of his victims, who come at him for revenge (with predictable results). More often than not, he's in prison because he wants to be, usually in order to kill a crimelord who Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All (or in one case, as explained above, to protect Matt Murdock). It essentially just eliminates his commute.
    • In Frank Miller's Daredevil, Frank tips off Bullseye, sharing a cellblock with him, that the Kingpin had replaced him as his personal assassin. When asked why he'd tell him this, Frank's quote says it all:
      Frank: Thought you might do something stupid. Get yourself killed. I'd like that.
    • The Trial of the Punisher: Frank allows himself to be arrested and put on trial... so he can kill a federal judge who had been a criminal entered into the Witness Protection Program years ago.
    • The End: It's mentioned that during his imprisonment in Sing-Sing, Frank kept killing his fellow prisoners until a judge finally realized it would keep happening ("feeding meat to a tiger" was the simile used), so he's been in solitary for several years.
    • The Cell: Frank gets himself arrested and sent to Ryker's, orchestrating a prison riot so he can get at the lifers who were responsible for the deaths of his family so long ago. The corrupt guards try to intimidate him by walking him past the toughest inmate, a Scary Black Man named Squeaky Pete ("he don't use lube"). Frank immediately breaks free and kills him, telling the guards to send the next-toughest.
  • Defied towards the end of the original run of Top 10, where Joe Pi and Irma Geddon have to bring in Atoman, a Superman expy who also happens to be a serial child molester. Realizing that they cannot possibly beat him without taking serious losses, Joe bluffs, telling Atoman that they have cannons that can temporarily strip him of his powers. Fearing that he'll be tossed into prison alongside all his old enemies, Atoman chooses to kill himself by exposing himself to a lethal dose of his weakness.
  • In Watchmen, Rorschach gets locked up in a prison full of criminals that he put behind bars. It does not go well... for the criminals.
    Rorschach: None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with YOU. You're locked up in here with ME.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Discussed in Constantine (2005). Constantine's soul has been destined for Hell ever since an attempted suicide in his childhood, and he's trying to earn his way into Heaven by banishing demons that don't belong in the human world. However, he's very aware that if his plan doesn't work he'll be even more screwed than he would have been otherwise, since, as he tells a police officer he befriends: "What would you do if you were sentenced to a prison where half the inmates were put there by you?"
  • In The Fate of the Furious, Hobbs was helping out on a heist, but when Dom goes rogue, Hobbs is forced to steal the device in his place. This leads him to get caught and arrested, where he ends up incarcerated in the same high-security prison as Deckard Shaw, the Big Bad from the previous film who Hobbs had helped put there. In fact the two of them are placed in neighboring cells and exchange a lot of crude banter with one another. During a power outage, Shaw takes the opportunity to escape, to which Hobbs pursues in an attempt to stop him while also fighting off the prison guards who are trying to hinder him.
  • In Ghost Rider (2007), Johnny gets wrongly accused of murders committed by Blackheart and gets thrown into a shared cell full of multiple thugs. After ganging up on him and beating him up together, Johnny transforms into Ghost Rider and blasts all of them away, steals one guy's jacket, then burns through the bars of the cell to escape prison.
  • In Hancock, the titular character accepts how irresponsible he's been, doing heroics under the influence of alcohol and is put in prison as part of his rehabilitation. While there he meets up with all of the criminals he put behind bars and they all crowd around him. But turns out it's a very bad idea to piss off an immoral Superman. Hancock warns one thug that this will end with his head going up another guy's ass. The guy doesn't listen and Hancock keeps his promise.
  • Judge Dredd has been found guilty of murder (wrongfully), and is shackled inside a prison transport. Dredd's seatmate is Fergie, a petty criminal that Dredd had sentenced to five years in the Aspen Penal Colony. Also aboard that transport is a thug from the Heavenly Haven riot, itching to make an escape.
  • In Tango and Cash, the titular cops are framed and forced to take a plea bargain for a minimum-security prison. Instead, they're dumped in a supermax full of violent inmates they put away, who greet them with a rain of flaming garbage and threats.
  • In Watchmen, Rorschach gets set up and walks straight into a crime scene with cops tipped off ready to arrest him. He gets put in a prison full of criminals who know and resent him. But they soon learn that if any of them try to screw with him, they'll be lucky to walk away with severe scarring. As Rorschach makes it clear: "I'm not locked in here with you, you're locked in here with me!"

  • In Viktor Suvorov's The Liberators, it is mentioned that the officers patrolling the streets for soldiers misbehaving during the leave must catch a certain number by midnight (which means arresting them for buttons not sewed straight). If they fail, they are given another chance after midnight. If they fail that as well, they suffer the trope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow
    • While Oliver Queen had been arrested several times on suspicion of being the Hood/Arrow/Green Arrow, he always managed to evade custody before reaching prison. That is until Season 6 where he has finally run out of cards to play and is left with no choice but to publicly out himself as the Green Arrow and accept arrest at the hands of the FBI. Oliver gets incarcerated into the same prison housing many of the rogues he had locked away including Bronze Tiger, Brick, and Derek Sampson. Brick ends up leading a revolt where Oliver is forced to fight his rogues again.
    • When Roy Harper impersonates the Arrow to bail Oliver out of trouble, he gets incarcerated in Iron Heights full of criminals that hated the vigilante. One of the inmates ended up stabbing Roy. Though it's later revealed this was a ruse to fake Roy's death as the inmate was actually one of Diggle's buddies.
    • Invoked and subverted when Diggle gets framed for being a war criminal and incarcerated in the same cell as his old nemesis Deadshot (who was believed to have been dead), though it turns out Diggle was hallucinating his old enemy.
  • Booth in Bones after being framed for murder. A lot of guys Booth arrested were in there with him, and the members of The Conspiracy seemed to hope Booth would die in there from being attacked. They weren’t counting on Brennan using blackmail on them to free him.
  • In Daredevil (2015), Season 2 had Frank Castle being apprehended and put into the same prison as Wilson Fisk, who had managed to take over the compound and was running it as his own personal kingdom. There Frank is tricked into a trap where Fisk unleashes a whole block of angry inmates on Frank. However Frank manages to kill every single one of them with nothing but his bare hands and a few weapons he managed to snatch off the criminals.
  • In one episode of Diagnosis: Murder, Dr Mark Sloan is the victim of a Frameup and is sentenced to death row, where he meets a man who he helped to convict of murder in an earlier episode (and whose brother organised the Frame-Up in the first place). The convict takes the chance to gloat that he's likely to be released soon, as Mark's conviction has thrown the charges against him into doubt.
  • In The Flash (2014), a short arc of several episodes during season 4 has Barry ending up imprisoned in Iron Heights after being framed for the murder of DeVoe; the same prison where all of the metahumans he catches are incarcerated. Since nobody knows he's the Flash, he is initially put in a regular cell. Then warden Wolfe discovers he is the Flash and has him locked in the metahuman wing with power dampeners, where he's celled up with the bus meta rogues he had been rounding up in that season. They, however, don't know yet that he's the Flash. After Barry learns that Wolfe is Evil All Along and plans to sell all the metas to Amunet, he uses his scientific skill to break him and all the other metas out before Amunet arrives. The metas eventually confront Wolfe and since they had reached an area outside of the Power Dampener's range, they're all ready to take revenge. So to save his own skin, Wolfe reveals to the metas that Barry Allen is the Flash and he was the one who locked them all up, to begin with, causing the metas to all turn on him. Barry is only saved by Becky Sharpe who had a Heel Realization and turns against the other bus metas using her luck manipulation. Unfortunately, the success is shortlived where DeVoe himself shows up and kills all of the bus metas by draining their powers, while taking Becky's body for himself.
  • In Gotham, Gordon is framed for murder and put away inside Blackgate Penitentiary, where his reputation, unfortunately, precedes him.
  • One late episode of Killjoys sees Dutch, D'av, and Johnny arrested and sent away to a supermax prison ship, where they run into one of the criminals they arrested way back in the first episode, who has sworn revenge against them and aligned himself with one of the gangs that controls the prison.
  • Inverted in Luke Cage (2016), where the titular character was incarcerated in Seagate prison before his superhero career and houses with Shades, a criminal who would go on to become one of his most notorious rogues when they are both released.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown:
    • Trigger is sent to a penal unit after shooting down former President Harling's plane as it was done by a friendly missile and Trigger was the closest ally. The unit is filled with various types of criminals who are a bunch of cowboys in the air who do their own thing. Trigger's arrival changes things when they start making an impact on the war front. So, much so that the brass takes notice and issues pardons. Trigger and Count are assigned to the LRSSG
    • Later on, it is found out that Trigger didn't shoot down Harling's plane and that it was a drone spoofing Osean IFF.
  • As in their comic book counterparts, Batman: Arkham Series games invoke this plot in which Batman is locked up or infiltrated into a prison to save other prisoners and defeat their enemies, mostly Arkham Asylum and Arkham City (a city-scale version of Asylum).
  • Die Hard: Vendetta has the Hollywoodland shootout ending with John defeating and capturing Nitric, one of the villains, only for John to be arrested himself for endangering a Celebrity Survivor the prior stage. And as luck would have it, John just happens to be imprisoned in the cell next to Nitric's.
  • Watchmen: The End Is Nigh is a video game Spin-Off of The Movie, with one of the stages (and the one used for the demo) being about Rorschach and Nite-Owl II going to a prison to stop a riot, infiltrating it in the middle and fighting against various prisoners that haven't escaped yet.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Action League NOW! episode, "Hey! Who Stole My Face?", a blender accident leaves Bill the Lab Guy to put The Chief and The Mayor back together. Bill does so successfully for the most part, but accidentally switches their faces. This leads the Action League to believe that The Chief with The Mayor's face is The Mayor and vice-versa. The Mayor with The Chief's face takes advantage of this and orders the police to arrest The Chief with The Mayor's face. The Chief with The Mayor's face is sent to jail and gets beaten up by the criminals he arrested, at least until his dog, Justice, brings him the keys to his cell.
  • An episode of Alpha Teens on Machines sees Hawk and King sent up the river by a crooked cop and judge, and have to content with this trope.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • In "Dreams in Darkness", Batman gets deemed insane and is incarcerated in Arkham Asylum, the very place where his Rogues Gallery is held. It turns out Scarecrow orchestrated the whole thing by exposing Batman to his Fear Gas and having him appear delusional.
    • "Trial" plays with this idea by having the rogues intentionally orchestrate this and have Batman captured before the rogues hold a trial for him to determine whether or not he is guilty of making the rogues who they are, with D.A. Janet Van Dorn (who loathes Batman) being forced to act as his defense attorney. However, Janet does brilliantly, having studied all of the rogues and manages to give convincing statements that it wasn't Batman who created the rogues, but the rogues who created Batman.
    • In "Lock-Up", an overzealous Arkham warden is first fired for his methods, then becomes a vigilante, and at the end, goes to Arkham again, this time as an inmate... and is glad he can now once again keep an eye on the criminals.
  • Danny Phantom: While looking for a package he dropped in the ghost zone, Danny is captured by Walker and is brought to a ghost prison where all of the most dangerous ghosts he faced before, and The Box Ghost, are also being held. This case is rather interesting, as Walker then became a member of Danny's rouges gallery himself, and the fact that he locked up most of Danny's other Rouges was a pure coincidence. Also, it doesn't take long for Danny to convince his assorted enemies to form an Enemy Mine with him. As while he sent them back into the Ghost Zone when he beat them all previously, he had no involvement in them getting locked up in Walker's Jail.
  • In the Family Guy episode "One if by Clam, Two if by Sea", Peter, Joe, Quagmire, and Cleveland are wrongfully sent to prison for arson. Inside, most of the inmates recognize Joe as the cop who put them away. One inmate, in particular, threatens that he's going to kill them at a very specific time. Fortunately, Lois is able to set them free just before the time. The inmate is surprised to find that the cell is empty, and just out of bored curiosity, shanks himself just to know what it feels like.
    Inmate: OW! Is that what I've been doing all this time? ... I belong here.
  • One episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man has Peter volunteer to test the new security system of the Vault. Naturally, the systems get sabotaged, and Peter is locked in as virtually all the villains he's faced over the series are let out of their cells.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Who Bopped Bugs Bunny?", Daffy Duck, Plucky, and Hamton are all imprisoned in a French prison, the former for a crime he did not commit, and the latter two for trying to break the former out. At the end of the episode, Buster and Babs rescue Bugs and arrest Sappy Stanley, the true culprit, but Daffy, Plucky, and Hamton are unfortunately not pardoned of their criminal charges and are stuck in prison, making license plates with Stanley.
  • Though one of them isn't a hero at all, in the Wander over Yonder episode "The Buddies" Wander and Lord Hater are tossed into Hater's prison dimension. The 4 prisoners there are happy to beat Hater up but relent when Wander claims to be Hater's friend and they spare him as Wander had helped them all out before, meaning Hater must befriend (or at least seem to befriend) his greatest enemy.