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Prefer Jail to the Protagonist

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Police officer: Good work, SpongeBob. You put the Strangler behind bars!
Tattletale Strangler: At least I'm safe from that yellow idiot.
SpongeBob SquarePants, "SpongeBob meets the Strangler"

A villain has plotted an Evil Plan, an evil plan so terrific he has no doubt in its completion. Nothing can stand in his way, not even that do-gooder coming down the street!

But wait — suddenly he's stuck in the area with this guy for some time. Now the evil plan doesn't seem so important — all that's important is getting away from this nut, no matter how! Maybe the person is so loony he makes your head spin. Maybe he's so bratty he makes you pull your hair out (what hair he didn't pull out himself). In the worst cases, he may be so fearsome he makes your blood curdle and your hair stand up. Whatever the cause, nothing could be worse than being alone with him another minute. But where can you go? Back to jail!


Note that this strategy does not always work. An extremely determined person may follow the villain back to the prison he's trying to go to escape from him. The point is, however, that prison isn't a concern for the bad guy anymore. All that matters is getting this annoyance/terror off his back.

Can be the result of Pity the Kidnapper, Unintentionally Notorious Crime, or Mugging the Monster. Subtrope of Unishment. An interesting subversion is Cruel Mercy if the hero realizes that jail is too easy for the villain. Contrast The Mob Boss Is Scarier, where a criminal is so fearsome that no one will inform on them and will take jail time or other legal penalties rather than risk their wrath.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable villain Akira Otoishi is in prison for robbery, though he committed worse crimes that cannot be revealed due to The Masquerade. He's perfectly fine with this, since he's terrified of the alternative of Okuyasu and Josuke dealing with him for his more serious crimes of murdering Okuyasu's brother and trying to kill Josuke's father.

    Comic Books 
  • In a comic book published by Dell Comics based on the Twist, a one page comic sees a man released from jail after 25 years. He returns to where he used to hang out, only to witness everyone doing the Twist. He promptly runs back to jail.
  • Inversion in Blake and Mortimer. When Olrik (who had been working for a rogue Soviet doctor) is arrested, he's his usual flippant self when Blake and Mortimer visit his cell, but when he learns he's being exchanged by the British police to the Soviets, he begs for them to prevent it.
  • In The Death of Superman story arc of the Superman comics, Batman catches a terrorist who was going to use Superman's funeral as an opportunity to assassinate a world leader. Batman caught him and said that in Superman's honor, he'd do things Superman's way. The assassin is left tied to a flagpole begging to be arrested because "Batman might come back!"
  • Many criminals let themselves be imprisoned so as to evade The Punisher (and depending on their status, may end up in a Luxury Prison Suite). When that happens, Frank turns himself in, always getting sent to the same prison, and takes out the criminal (and the criminal's bodyguards, tough guys who want to show off, rival prison gangs, prisoners he runs into on the way, and his cellmate) before breaking out of the prison.

  • Courageous: Officers Fuller and Mitchell have to take a captured burglar/drug holder to the jail while their civilian friend Javier is in the back. Mitchell deals with it by calling Javier the leader of the Snake Kingsnote  and instructing the guy to yell for help if Javier tries to kill him. Javier ramps up the paranoia by rambling creepily in Spanish. By the end of the ride, the formerly belligerent youth can't wait to reach the "safety" of a jail cell.
  • In The Muppets Take Manhattan, a phony Broadway producer is about to be arrested for fraud when he takes Gonzo and Camilla hostage. After an attack from Animal, he begs to be arrested.
  • John Woo's The Killer has Wong Hoi doing this at the end of the movie to get away from Inspector Li Ying, who wants him dead for killing Ah Jong, the protagonist of the film. This results in Li gunning him down right in front of his fellow officers and then getting arrested.

  • In the Honor Harrington short story "What Price Dreams", the control officer of an assassination attempt was detected and mobbed by treecats, to such a degree he screamed for help and made a full confession more or less on the spot to the rangers and bodyguards coming to the scene.

    Live Action TV 
  • Downplayed in The Addams Family episode "Halloween with the Addams". Crooks Marty and Claude finally race out of the house in panic after spending an evening hiding from the police. In their haste to escape, they get caught by the police.
  • In an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the Banks hire an ex-con as a servant while Jeffery's away. Eventually he decides to violate his parole and go back to jail rather than continue to work for Phil Banks.
  • A subversion occurs in the iCarly episode, "iFind Lewbert's Lost Love". Even though Chuck Chambers was responsible for stealing all the TV remotes in the Bushwell Plaza, Lewbert tells the police that he stole the remotes in order to get away from Marta Trundel, his ex-girlfriend. Just to ensure he's away from her for a long time, he slaps one of the officers to extend his sentence.
  • Barney Miller
    • In one episode, inveterate gambler Nick comes in crowing about a big score he had made: he picked all the bowl games, then bet it all on a hockey game and won there too. Then his bookie comes into the detective squad room and turns himself in for illegal betting: turns out everyone had had the same sting of luck and he can't cover his bets. And not everyone is as nice as Nick is.
    • In another episode a burglar had been caught and tried in a makeshift community court (which had been designed for small civil disputes) and had been serving his "sentence" locked up in the basement. He escapes and is picked up by the real cops; he's grateful to be in a real jail.
  • At the end of one The Adventures of Superman episode, one villain tells another he can call the police: "Better a hundred of those guys than Superman!"
  • One episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, had a rising mob boss who used You Have Outlived Your Usefulness or The Mob Boss Is Scarier liberally. In the end Goren manages to use this against him by making it look like one of his henchmen was plotting against him, meaning said henchman practically begged Goren to arrest him and cut a deal.

    Western Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts: In "Two-Gun Goofy", after getting (accidentally) slapped around, stepped on, and nearly blown up by Goofy, Pistol Pete decides he's had enough and locks himself in jail.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • "Bugs and Thugs" has Bugs Bunny trick Rocky and Mugsy into hiding in a stove, then later impersonate a policeman and light the stove with them still inside. When the real policeman shows up, Rocky and Mugsy beg for him to take them to jail.
    • An Accidental Hero example: In the 1936 Porky Pig short The Blow Out, Porky, here a young child, is trying to earn spending money by returning objects that grown-ups have dropped. He thus innocently chases a Mad Bomber around, repeatedly handing his activated Time Bomb back to him. The increasingly frazzled bomber finally runs voluntarily into an open police wagon, only for Porky to toss the bomb in after him.
  • The Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Take Elmyra Please" has Arthur Jabba's henchmen, George and Leonard, kidnap Elmyra Duff and hold her for ransom in exchange for her father's fuel formula. Elmyra thinks their hideout is a TV studio and her antics drive George and Leonard up the wall, to the point where by the time her younger brother, Duncan, and the police show up, George and Leonard beg for the police to take them to jail. Of course, since the kidnapping was Mr. Jabba's idea, they rat him out and he is arrested as well.
  • The Action League NOW! episode, "Flesh and Blood" has two criminals impersonating The Flesh's parents and tricking him into robbing a mansion. However, the Flesh's inadvertent injuries to them get them to confess they're not his real parents and beg for the police to take them to jail.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • The episode, "Child Fearing" has Mojo Jojo being released from prison to babysit Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup while the Professor is at a meeting. At first, he wants them to help him take over Townsville, but taking care of them is too much for him to handle, and he calls the police so they can take him back to jail.
    • The Amoeba Boys avert this - they simply want to go to jail to prove they're just as much criminals as the other villains in Townsville.
    • In the episode "Sun Scream", two criminals are disgusted by the girls' sunburnt skin peeling and beg to be taken to jail. However, the girls decide to leave them stranded on an island with only a tube of sunscreen instead. The criminals get sunburned as a result of not using the sunscreen, claiming it's only for nerds.
  • In The New Woody Woodpecker Show episode, "Baby Buzzard", Buzz disguises himself as a baby so he can rob Woody's house when Woody starts his babysitting service. When Woody finds out that Buzz is robbing his house, he makes him take a nap with a live, ferocious badger, who mauls him while Woody calls the police. When the Policeman arrives, Buzz begs for him to arrest him. Subverted at the end, in which the badger also gets arrested and mauls Buzz while in the paddy wagon.
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode "Tooth or Dare", a saber-toothed tiger (depicted as a present-day tiger with saber teeth instead of the correct depiction called a Smilodon) kicks Garfield out of the house, disguising him as a saber-toothed tiger while the real tiger is free to roam about through the house whenever he likes. At the end, the tiger is finally driven out of the house and begs for the museum guards to take him back to the museum. The museum guards do so and it is revealed that Garfield had invited Nermal over to pester the tiger about how cute he was, which was what made the tiger want to leave the house.
  • In the 4th season of Teen Titans, Dr. Light faces Raven using her dark powers, whereas exposure to that in the 1st season reduced him into a shivering wreck. Upon seeing that thing again in the 4th season, Dr. Light goes from "No one defeats Dr. Light!" into "I'd like to go to jail now, please."
  • Variation in The Batman. In "Rumors", The Penguin tries to hand himself over to Batman because an even more dangerous vigilante named 'Rumor' has begun attacking Gotham's criminal community. Everyone knows that criminals who cross Batman end up handed over to the police and arrested, but criminals Rumor targets are abducted and never seen again, so Penguin decides a jail cell is the safest place he can be.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • In "Joker's Favor", the protagonist is an ordinary man who has the misfortune to become The Joker's "hobby". After a whole episode of torment, he seemingly snaps and confronts the Joker, frightening him so much that the Joker calls Batman for help.
    • After his encounter with The Creeper in "Beware the Creeper", the Joker surrenders to Batman, declaring the Creeper "a lunatic" without any irony whatsoever.
  • In the T.U.F.F. Puppy episode, "Moms Away!", Snaptrap plans to get rid of all the Moms in Petropolis by shipping them to a deserted island and stranding them there. At the end of the episode, Dudley foils Snaptrap's plan and decides to have his Mom punish him. Snaptrap begs to be taken to jail instead.
  • An episode of Mister T titled "Mystery of the Stranger" deals with abducted kids. Mr. T and company track down a pair of kidnappers. Eventually, Mr. T catches one of them and with a Death Glare, offers the kidnapper a choice: face him or go to jail. The kidnapper begs to be thrown in jail.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!. In "Acts of Vengeance", Baron Zemo and the remaining members of the Masters of Evil surrender themselves into the custody of The Avengers so they will have to protect them from the Enchantress who is on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after she was betrayed in "This Hostage Earth".
  • A variant in the Darkwing Duck episode "Time and Punishment": Megavolt and Quackerjack for once don't want to break out of the St. Canard Jail. Given that they're in an alternate future and that future's Darkwing has gone Knight Templar, they have a good reason.
  • In the old Polish cartoon Prosze Slonia, two thieves attempt to steal the tusks of the main hero, a white elephant named Dominik. However, after a number of painful failed attempts, they get so scared that they just beg the police to take them away.
  • In an episode of Muppet Babies (1984), Gonzo apprehends a train robber in a fantasy segment. Once he's tied up, Gonzo says, "So what'll it be: 20 years in jail, or 20 jokes from Fozzie?" The train robber chooses jail.
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "The Good Muddahs", Webby is kidnapped and held for ransom by the Beagle Boys' cousins, the Beagle Babes. Webby is rescued by the end of the episode, but she developed a bond with the Beagle Babes and doesn't want them to be arrested. Scrooge agrees to drop the charges, provided they work for him. Not wanting that, they willingly let the police arrest them, but not before kissing Webby goodbye.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Mrs. Puff gets sent to jail in "Doing Time". She loves it in there, simply because she doesn't have to deal with SpongeBob anymore. Well, at least until SpongeBob and Patrick visit and attempt to help bust her out of prison, much to her dismay.
    • In "Spongebob Meets the Strangler", the Tattletale Strangler disguises himself as a bodyguard to get close enough to SpongeBob to strangle him for turning him in. However, SpongeBob's frequent delays, culminating in two surprise parties, drive the Strangler so insane he throws himself into prison in order to get away from him. A Brick Joke from after the second party results in the Strangler sharing a cell with Patrick, implying he's still not out of the woods on that front.
    • In "The Getaway", a recently-escaped prisoner named Sticky Fins Whiting tricks SpongeBob into being his getaway driver. Anyone who is aware of what SpongeBob's driving skills are like will realize just how horribly that must've went. Indeed, by the end of the episode, Sticky Fins begs the police to put himself in solitary confinement just to keep SpongeBob far away from him. In fact, Mrs. Puff decides to try and get in jail too, knowing she'll be subjected to teaching SpongeBob again.
  • In Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, when Batman/Thomas Wayne fights a criminal named Yo-Yo, he tries to grill her for information on the Joker who in this rendition is Martha Wayne turned insane from losing Bruce. When Yo-Yo refuses to divulge any information, Thomas throws her off the building they were fighting on. Cyborg arrives and quickly catches her, to which Yo-Yo is more than happy to surrender to him than deal with Thomas again.
  • Trollhunters: In "Arcadia's Most Wanted", the thieves behind the burglaries have taken Toby hostage and declare they're not going back to prison... then Blinky and AAARRRGGHH!!! show up and send the crooks running to turn themselves in.
  • A few MAD Agents in Inspector Gadget surrendered themselves to the police so they could get away from Gadget's idiocy. The agent in "Birds of a Feather" even begged the cops to "Get me away from this MANIAC!"


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