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Pariah Prisoner

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"In prison, there is no creature lower than a sex offender. Even snitches get a pass before these guys. S-O's, chomos, pedophiles; the nicknames all mean the same thing, and they help average convicts differentiate themselves from those they like to believe are the real monsters."

Mainstream criminals have a morality scale of their own (though in some cases, said morality may involve them being worse). Many of them despise the police and prison crews (including officers sentenced to prison), snitches, sexual offenders (especially child rapists), and sexual or racial minorities. Truth in Television featured in many works of fiction.

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If prisoners of these groups get locked up together with mainstream criminals, they might be beat up in a Prison Riot, become the victim of Prison Rape (a kind of Karmic Rape for sexual offenders), or even murdered, typically with a Sinister Shiv.

These groups might fear prison worse than death. If they survive a prison sentence, expect them to be willing to do anything to avoid going back.

See also Asshole Victim as a possible outcome due them being pariah prisoners, Moral Event Horizon for atrocities that may make them unwanted, Blue and Orange Morality for the peculiar rules that dictate what is acceptable and what not, and Even Evil Has Standards for one possible reason that some prisoners become this.


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Examples

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    Comic Books 
  • The Punisher:
    • Frank once visited a not-quite Luxury Prison Suite where it was mentioned that the occupants made use of guys with toothless mouths who knew how to use them, considered the lowest of the low.
    • Frank himself is generally put into solitary after a while, as the first thing he does when he's in prison is kill a few inmates, whether they come after him for vengeance or street cred.
  • Played for Laughs in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, in which Warren White pleads insanity to escape going to prison for white-collar crimes — only to discover that in Arkham, home of any number of psychotic murderers, scamming people out of their money makes him even more hated than The Joker.
  • In Watchmen when Rorschach is captured and put in prison, other prisoners plan to kill him for his vigilante activities, but he turns the tables on them. "I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me."
  • Serial killer Cletus Kasady usually gets a cell of his own due to possessing a carnivorous alien parasite and being more than happy to use it to kill anyone and everyone in his vicinity. When separated from it in Superior Carnage Annual, he was re-introduced into the general populace in an attempt to rehabilitate him. The other prisoners treated him with contempt and one of them — who had been hired by his therapist — shanked him. After the symbiote returned, Cletus returned the favor.
  • In Top 10, Atoman - publicly a veteran hero, but actually a pedophile and ringleader of a child porn business - chooses to commit suicide rather than surrender to the police, as he believes he'll be permanently de-powered before thrown into prison, making him an easy target for his many past enemies there.
  • In Hard Time, Lewis Gatherwood is in State for the rape and murder of a young (implicitly very young) black girl. Not only is he beaten by black inmates in the shower, but Sinister Minister inmate Gantry soon kills him by dousing him in gasoline and burning him alive. He was dead only a few days into his sentence.

    Film 
  • Part of the motive rant of the villain in The Bone Collector is that he was a former cop who was thrown in prison.
    "Do you know what happens to a cop in prison? You are brutalised every single day over and over... you become a human toilet."
  • The ending of Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, where Duke, the main bad guy of the movie, is Hoist by His Own Petard following his imprisonment for his sexual crimes against children. It is heavily implied that Prison Rape ensues.
  • Matt Cordell, the eponymous character of the Maniac Cop films, was actually a heroic figure in his heyday. But he was framed for corruption and was placed in prison together with the scum that he had helped to put away, and was constantly a target for them. He eventually got shanked so bad that it left him brain-damaged, and he became a villain who does the exact opposite of his former duty.
  • The Shawshank Redemption. When guard chief Hadley is arrested, he breaks down. Implicitly, he knows he will not only go to prison, but also together with inmates who hate him.

    Live Action TV 
  • Alcatraz: Kit Nelson is beaten by a mob of prisoners in the yard because of his status as a child murderer. He's put into solitary confinement by the guards partly for his safety, and partly as punishment.
  • Better Call Saul. Mike says that cops fear prison more than death.
  • At the end of the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Stress Position", Goren manages to shame each of the corrupt prison guards who killed the Victim of the Week (and are trying to make another witness suffer an "accident") into turning themselves in. The leader tries to stop the first to back down by warning them he'll face this trope; he says he'll do his time in solitary.
  • Oz:
    • The prison has a separate small wing to house inmates who used to work in law enforcement to protect them from other prisoners.
    • Zigzagged by one of the few child killers in the show, Malcolm "Snake" Coyle. He was arrested on a robbery charge, but when the truth about his other crimes came out (he couldn't help bragging about it), all the other gangs allied together to protect the guy who snitched on him. The Homeboys, however, were pissed off when Coyle ended up dead, albeit for "political" reasons rather than moral ones.
  • In the backstory of Life, police officer Charlie Crews was in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and ended up spending most of his time in solitary just to keep other prisoners from killing him.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Randy (who has just become a prison guard) brings in a new prisoner, and introduces him as a first-time prisoner, a convicted child molester, and a former police officer to the other inmates.
  • Prison Break:
    • When Brad Bellick is framed for murder and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, he has the bright idea to get a sentence at the same prison where he used to be the captain of the guard, thinking that his old status will grant him protection by his former colleagues. It backfires because the new hardline Warden is adament about no privileges being accorded to anyone, so he quickly becomes a target for reprisals.
    • The Sona prison in Panama has a specific prisoner who is designated as the pariah and is completely ignored by the other prisoners, not even giving them any food (they feed on leftovers). This happens to Brad Bellick (the guy can't catch a break it seems) when he refuses to give up his belongings on his arrival, and only gets accepted after winning a fight much later.
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    Music 

    Theatre 
  • In The Laramie Project, one of the characters mentions that Aaron McKinney and Brian Henderson, the murderers of Matthew Shepard, were not very well-received by their fellow inmates.
  • The 1974 play Short Eyes by Miguel Piñero (Obie Award, Drama Desk Award, Tony Nomination, made into a film) is about an accused child molester in prison. Nearly all the other inmates turn on him for his crime. The term "Short Eyes" is prison slang for a pedophile.

    Video Games 
  • Prison Architect. A constant concern. Snitches and ex-cops need to get into a segregated unit.
  • Invoked in Mirror's Edge: one of the reasons Faith is so adamant about clearing her cop sister Kate's name before she stands trial is that "blues in jail don't last long", as she tells Captain Miller.
  • This is the fate of Superintendent Pendrew in Sleeping Dogs. Wei is given evidence that confirms him as the killer of Uncle Po, meaning that he's not just going away as an ex-cop, but also the man who killed one of the underworld's most-respected figures.
    Pendrew: That's a fucking death sentence!

    Webcomics 
  • In The Dragon Doctors, a captured member of Murder, Inc. mentions that her kind doesn't live long in Prison.
  • In Gaia, being in prison for alleged treason causes even the other inmates to turn on you.

    Real Life 
  • Many prison services have segregated units for vulnerable prisoners.
    • These are not always intentionally made. When inmates have to be separated after a conflict, it's obvious that the aggressor cannot be put around other at-risk inmates, so he will probably end up around other dangerous inmates. Over time, this creates pockets of at-risk inmates that serve as unofficial "PC" units.
  • It isn't just pedophiles:
    • Inmates on Retained Jurisdiction, or "riders" are being given a probationary sentence by a judge and are not officially in the custody of a Department of Corrections. They are only slightly higher than child molesters in the prison hierarchy.
    • Civil Commitments have been declared mentally incapable of living in society by a judge and have not been convicted of a crime. They are people who would have been in a state hospital in the 50's, but are often held in prisons due to a lack of mental health facilities. Mental health offenders often require special attention, but Civil Commits are extreme cases.
  • There are a few Urban Legends around of Even Evil Has Standards where prisoners murder newly-arrived pedophiles.
  • In female prisons, it's reportedly women who kill their own children who are at the bottom of the prison food chain.
    • People who murder children in general are considered only slightly "better" than child molesters.
  • The authors of the Hi-Fi murders were despised by their death row cellmates, to the point that Gary Gilmore, en route to the firing squad, exclaimed he would see them in Hell.
  • Russia has special prisons for high-ranking civil servants, such as policemen, judges, and taxmen. Such inmates tend to have a rather short life expectancy in normal prisons.
    • Supposedly, rapists and pedophiles were despised by The Mafiya-run prison gangs in older times, and tended to end up as sex slaves. In modern times, this "custom", most likely, is dead.
  • In Nazi concentration camps, the prisoners most despised by other prisoners were the homosexuals and former Nazis that fell out of Hitler's favor and got sent there.
  • Pedophile priest John Geoghan was murdered by Joseph Druce, who was serving a life sentence for murder (and now serving a second life sentence for Geoghan's death). It was suggested at the time that Druce killed Geoghan to gain prestige in the prison hierarchy.
  • Jeffrey Dahmer was killed by Christopher Scarver in 1994 while serving barely three years into his multiple life sentence. He was declared mentally competent to answer for his crimes, thus placed in the general population. What is notable about this incident is that Dahmer was White while Scarver is Black. Normally, undesirable inmates such as pedophiles are always "handled" by inmates of their own race. To cross racial barriers on such an issue is a violation of prison politics, regardless of the end justifying the means. However, Dahmer was considered an acceptable exception due to the fact that as a White serial killer, the majority of his victims were Black men.


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