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Just Got Out of Jail

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Judge: Mr. Natsume... I'm quite sure, if I'm not mistaken, that you swore an oath never to set foot in my courtroom again. I remember it as if it were yesterday.
Van Zieks: The day before, in fact, My Lord. But close enough.
The Great Ace Attorney 2: Revolve, "The Memoirs of the Clouded Kokoro"

Bob is on his way somewhere, when he gets dragged into a heist, shootout or other illegal activity. It doesn't matter if he's a hostage, an innocent bystander, or trying to stop the criminals, he just got out of jail, so he knows the cops won't listen to him. Or he knows they're corrupt. Either way, he's either a Retired Outlaw or just that much more determined not to get caught and never go back to prison.

Note that this trope applies to people who were released either on parole or due to their sentence being complete. Expect a Retired Gunslinger to be recently released about half the time. The same can be said of virtually any protagonist with a criminal background.

If a genuine villain just got out of jail, he is a Falsely Reformed Villain or Karma Houdini.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • Akiba Maid War: Ranko was released from jail only shortly before being hired at the maid cafe.

    Comic Books 
  • Issue #6 of The Hair Bear Bunch (Gold Key, May 1973) had the bears recruited by a Mission: Impossible expy to escort an amnesiac robber who had just been released from prison so they can re-create his crime and locate the whereabouts of the stolen money.
  • Wonder Woman (Rebirth): The former villain Mayfly is anxious and snappy when she first gets out of prison since she knows villains usually end up back in prison in short order and that she will be judged based on her past. The fact that she's befriended Wonder Woman in the interim helps though.

    Comic Strips 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • At the start of The Anderson Tapes, safe-cracker John "Duke" Anderson is released after ten years in prison.
  • Ant-Man: Upon his release from prison, well-meaning thief Scott Lang moves in with his old cellmate, Luis.
  • Any Number Can Win (Mélodie en sous-sol): Charles comes out of prison after serving five years for attempted robbery. His wife wants him to go legit but he immediately starts making plans for robbing the gambling casino at Cannes.
  • The Art of the Steal opens with Crunch being released from a Polish prison after serving a 7 year sentence.
  • The Asphalt Jungle opens with criminal mastermind Erwin "Doc" Riedenschneider is released from prison after seven years.
  • Blastfighter opens with Tiger being released from the state pen after serving 8 years for murdering the man who killed his wife. His ex-partner Pete is waiting to pick him up.
  • Blindspotting starts as Collins is released on probation. His fear of going back to prison for something as minor as missing curfew at his halfway house provides much of the tension of the first part of the film.
  • The Blues Brothers begins with "Joliet" Jake Blues being released from the prison that provides his nickname. By the end of the movie, every cop in the Chicago area is chasing him.
  • The sequel, Blues Brothers 2000, begins with Elwood being released from prison, with Jake having died in the meantime.
  • Buffalo '66 opens with Billy getting let out of jail. He has to whiz so bad he asks to be let back in for just a sec, but they won't let him.
  • This is the premise of Carlito's Way. The newly-released Carlito tries to make a legitimate living, but the FBI still want to see him put away. It doesn't help that he constantly gets tangled up in his colleagues' shady activities.
  • Le Cercle rouge has Corey being approached by a guard and offered the job robbing the jewelry store the night before Corey is released.
    • Its remake Cool Breeze'' opens with Sidney Lord Jones nbeing granted an early release by the parole board in San Quentin.
  • Le Deuxieme Souffle: Widely respected in the criminal world for his ability and loyalty, Gu Minda escapes from prison and heads for Paris to see his sister Manouche and her faithful bodyguard Alban.
  • At the start of Draw!, 'Handsome' Harry Holland has just completed a 15 year sentence in prison.
  • Les Fugitifs, by Francis Veber, begins with Lucas, an experienced bank robber who just got out of jail, being caught in Pignon's comically botched attempt at robbing a bank — he even asks Pignon if he couldn't take somebody else as a hostage. The trope is similarly used in the American remake, Three Fugitives
  • The Heist (1989) opens with Neil being released from prison after serving four years for a crime he did not commit.
  • Henry's Crime: Released from prison for a crime he didn't commit, an ex-con targets the same bank he was sent away for robbing.
  • The Hot Rock: In 1971, after John Dortmunder is released from his latest stint in prison, he is approached by his brother-in-law Andy Kelp about another job.
  • Hudson Hawk starts with Eddie getting out of prison. He's almost immediately forced to participate in an international burglary operation.
  • Into the Grizzly Maze opens with Rowan Moore on a bus returning to his home town having just got out of prison.
  • In The Italian Job (1969), Charlie is first spotted being released from prison and is promptly given the plan for the titular job.
  • At the end of the initial gunfight in Judge Dredd, Dredd arrests a man for tampering with a vending robot. When he realizes that the man he arrested was just released from prison (That very day), he adds a few years to the sentence. The reason the man had tampered with the robot was to have a hiding place from the shoot-out, which he had unknowingly walked into.
  • The Killing Kind opens with Terry Lambert arriving home after serving two years in prison after being physically forced to participate in a gang rape.
  • Mercy Streets begins with the main character being released from prison. Later in the story, his brother takes a fall for him so he won't be a two-time loser.
  • The 'Winter' segment of More Dead Than Alive deals with Cain being just released from prison. No one will give him a job and people are after him for his earlier crimes. He finally takes an offer from a showman named Ruffalo to perform as "Killer Cain" in his traveling shooting show.
  • Ocean's Eleven begins and ends with Danny Ocean being released from prison.
  • Happens Once an Episode in Olsen's Gang movies. Every movie starts with Egon leaving prison (usually with the new plan ready) and ends with him getting locked up again.
  • Following the opening flashback, Pistolera jumps to Angel being released from prison in the present day.
  • In Reservoir Dogs, this is Mr. Blond's backstory, as he was caught in a warehouse full of stolen goods. The authorities offered him a deal if he would turn state's evidence on Joe, but he refused and served four years instead. This loyalty is why Nice Guy Eddie called bullshit when Mr. Orange claimed Blond was going to kill them and take off with the diamonds from the heist.
  • At the start of A Score to Settle, Frankie is released from prison after 19 years when he is diagnosed with a terminal illness.
  • In Silverado, one of the heroes, Emmitt, has just been released from jail when he's ambushed, breaks another character out of jail, infiltrates a group of bandits, and winds up on the wrong side of a fight with a corrupt sheriff.
  • Sin City has John Hartigan get released from prison on parole just so he could tie up a loose end. This was intentional on his part, however.
  • The Spitfire Grill begins with Percy being released from a five-year prison sentence.
  • In Tiger House, the volatile Callum has only been out of prison for a few weeks and says he has no intention of ever going back He's right, but not in the way he meant.
  • Today We Kill... Tomorrow We Die! opens with Bill Kiowa being released after spending five years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
  • The film Tomorrowland begins with the protagonist getting out of juvenile detention.
  • Vabank and Vinci by Polish director Juliusz Machulski
  • In The Walking Dead (1936), The Syndicate picks John Ellman to be the fall guy for the murder of Judge Shaw because he has just been released from prison after serving a 10 sentence he received from the judge.
  • The War Wagon opens with Taw Jackson arriving back in town; having just got out of prison after 3 years. This discomfits the main villains, who weren't expecting him to be released for years.

  • American Gods starts with Shadow being released from prison; he quickly gets recruited as an assistant to Mr. Wednesday, who spends most of his time grifting despite being a Physical God.
  • Magical Girl Raising Project: In Black, Kana is released from prison at the beginning of so that she can be transferred to the magical girl class. The other students treat it as an interesting curiosity, but aren't bothered by it once they get to know her. Calcoro and Halna however treat her with caution/disdain respectively due to this.
  • It's heavily implied that this is the case with Ostap Bender in The Twelve Chairs (he wears a clean fancy suit and shoes but no everyday consumables like socks, and is homeless; the suit and shoes are implied to be given back to him upon release). This explains why he is extremely cautious about not violating the criminal code directly and enters Stargorod by foot to avoid run-ins with railroad police.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Back to Life Miri Matteson attempts to return to a normal life after serving an 18 year prison sentence for murder. Besides the standard "I've never heard of this thing that was invented while I was incarcerated", she has to deal with many people in her home town regarding her with loathing for her crime.
  • In the first episode of Hustle, Micky is released from prison after serving two years, and upon release, assembles a gang of fellow con artists.
  • Minder opens with Terry being released from prison having served several years for Grievous Bodily Harm and attempted armed robbery. Lacking job prospects, he ends up as a "minder" (bodyguard, heavy, etc.) for Honest John Arthur Dailey. Throughout the series, Terry is treated with suspicion and hostility by police as a result of his criminal record.
  • In My Name Is Earl, Earl gets released from prison, but finds he no longer has the apartment, the job, or girlfriend he acquired in Season 2, and spent all the lottery money he had left on a prom for the prison...and that life has gotten a lot tougher since no one wants to hire an ex-con. Even though he was in for a crime his ex-wife committed. This causes him to lose faith in Karma, and go back to his old ways.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "The Gun", Matthew Logan murders his wife Sandra within hours of being released from prison.
    • In "Alien Shop", Andy Pace has recently been released from prison after serving a sentence for drug dealing and is still on probation. He is desperately searching for a job so that he can support his pregnant wife Gabby and prove to her parents that he is not a deadbeat.
  • Prison Break: Linc (after his name was cleared the first time) kills a Mook and tells LJ and Sofia to run since he rightly assumes the police won't care if it's self-defense.
  • Savage River opens with Miki Anderson returning to her hometown in the Australian High Country after ten years in prison for accidentally killing a friend while a teenager.
  • Various characters in The Sopranos (Richie Aprile, Tony Blundetto, and Phil Leotardo, most prominently), only show up once they're released from jail, as a fairly justified way of having the characters be old friends without using Remember the New Guy?.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: Various villains throughout the show, as well as a few who have gone straight and assisted the Rangers in catching some villains.
  • The first episode of Wiseguy has Vinnie just getting out of prison after spending time there to set up his cover identity.


  • Getting Out by Marsha Norman is built on this trope. The play tells of Arlene (previously known as "Arlie"), a juvenile delinquent who struggles to build another life after her time in prison.

    Video Games 
  • While not exactly jail, the Jedi Exile in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords has just come back to Republic space after a ten-year sentence of exile pronounced on him/her by the Jedi Council.
  • Persona 5 begins with the protagonist, Joker, being let out of prison for a crime he was framed for. He ends up having to go back at the end in order to protect his friends and ensure that Shido is punished for his crimes. While he's let out in the ending, he's still being watched by policemen.
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon sees protagonist Ichiban Kasuga getting let out of prison after serving an 18 year sentence for a murder he hadn't committed but had confessed to in order to protect his yakuza clan.

    Visual Novels 
  • In The Great Ace Attorney, the page quote comes from the second case of the second game. Soseki Natsume, after being acquitted of murder in the fourth case of the first game, ends up being accused of attempted murder again soon afterward, and finds himself in court again, as mentioned in the page quote.

  • One Hyperbole and a Half story depicts Allie and her boyfriend picking up "Helper Dog" from a shelter; Allie characterizes the dog's rather.. intense.. attitude as being like this.
  • In Questionable Content, we first meet May as a hologram on a work-release program from Robot Jail, implied to be a server where criminal A.I.s exist, body-less. Her program is successful, and she soon appears with a body of her own, determined to reform. Most of her storylines revolve around being a recent ex-con, trying to find a job, and stay away from any hint of illegal activity.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • "Harley's Holiday" Poor Harley gets released from Arkham after a psychologist clears her, but a series of misunderstandings winds up sending her right back. She'd even paid for that dress...
    • Also, the Penguin did try to live an honest life and among Gotham's elites (which he believed possible thanks to Veronica Vreeland). While she cleared a misunderstanding when Batman wrongly assumed the Penguin was one of the muggers robbing her, it was eventually revealed to him she just wanted someone to be made a fool of at a party. He was so revolted he returned to a life of crime.
  • In Family Guy, when Meg was sentenced to 3 months in prison, she had a hard time adjusting to the norms of the outside world. She rapes Peter with a loofah in the shower, uses a bucket in her bedroom to relieve herself in instead of walking down the hall to the bathroom, beats Peter and the popular kids at school who made fun of her (and then French kisses Connie to show dominance), and is hostile to everyone. It overlaps with Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook.
  • Inversion: Huckleberry Hound is a warden of a prison where the honor system is in place. The prison has recreational facilities so no prisoner wants to escape. When a prisoner is scheduled to be released, he does everything he can to prevent being released.
  • King of the Hill - Bill gets Boomhauer out of a deep funk talking of his own perseverance against all odds, and how he waits outside of a woman's prison for departing inmates looking for dates. We then see him in action at show's end.
    Bill: So, what were you in for?
    Alicia: Killed my boyfriend.
    Bill: Does that mean you're single?
  • The first episode of Superjail!! begins with Jacknife being released from a normal prison. He immediately demonstrates how well he learned his lesson by killing a man and stealing his car with his daughter still in it.