Examples of this trope include:
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- The Dead Zone from Dragonball Z. As Garlic Jr. was one of the few villains who successfully became immortal, it was the only way to get rid of him.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the Shadow Realm is often used this way when a duelist loses against an evil Millennium Item wielder. Similar are the cards that Pegasus uses to imprison the souls of Seto and Mokuba Kaiba.
- The No Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) is pretty much made up of a typical prison for villains who prove to be a threat to The Multiverse. There are even alternate doppelgangers who enforce that and wonky gravity to prevent the prisoners from escape!
- The DCU
- The Phantom Zone, where Krypton sent their condemned criminals.
- The Speed Force from The Flash can be used as a prison. Its most notable prisoners include Superboy-Prime during the events of Infinite Crisis, and more tragically, Wally West during the entirety of the New 52.
- The Monsterlands in Shazam! (2018) are a vast dungeon complex where the Magical Lands send their worst criminals. Most of them are the Earth-Prime counterparts of classic Captain Marvel villians, but somehow Superboy-Prime ended up there as well.
- Marvel Comics' Civil War event revealed that Iron Man's pro-registration faction had a prison built in the Negative Zone to house those who refused to go along with the Superhuman Registration Act. When Spider-Man discovered this, he promptly defects to Captain America's side. Predictably to any readers familiar with the history of the Negative Zone, in post-Civil War stories this choice of location backfires badly when the xenophobic Negative Zone natives discover the prison.
- Oh, it gets better. If the threat of Blastaar or Annihilus showing up isn't bad enough, simply being in the Negative Zone has mind-altering effects on those who stay too long. Super-powered beings all stuck in one facility in a place that starts slowly driving them mad from the time they enter? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
- The One: Based on what we see of the Stygian Penal Colony, the entire Hades Universe (or, at least, that universe's Earth) may be used to dump interdimensional offenders with life sentences.
- The Isle of the Lost in Descendants is a prison dimension for all of the villains in the Disney Animated Canon. The moral dilemmas in such a plan begin with the fact that Mal and the other descendants are also living in exile even though they aren't guilty of their parents' crimes.
- Concussion was banished to one in Zoom: Academy for Superheroes after going insane and killing his teammates.
- Discworld has the Dungeon Dimensions, which are less than a shadow's width away. The things living there hate everything in the Discworlds dimension for being more real than them.
- The Elder Empire: The world of Asylum is an entire universe dedicated to imprisoning six Class-1 Fiends, nigh-incomprehensible and unkillable entities from the Void. The problem is that an Iteration needs living human souls in order to remain healthy and, importantly for Asylum, safe from the Void. So there are millions of innocent people trapped in this world who have been constantly used as playthings for evil gods for millennia. Word of God is that the Abidan (who trapped the Fiends) assumed they'd kill off humanity in a few centuries and let the world fall into the Void, which would be an annoyance for the Fiends but ultimately not a huge problem. Instead, they proved patient enough to keep the humans alive so that they could scheme and hopefully escape fully.
Live Action TV
- Angel has a few examples:
- A dimension where Ax-Crazy Straw Misogynist Billy Blim was trapped until Angel was blackmailed by Wolfram & Hart into breaking him out.
- A "holding dimension" described as the Senior Partners' version of a penalty box that resembles a US suburban town, in which inmates are stripped of their memories, spend time with a fake family, and then have their hearts cut out by a demon in a vicious cycle.
- Like its comic book counterpart, the Speed Force from The Flash (2014) is a Pocket Dimension that acts like a prison. Over the course of the show Savitar, Wally West, Jay Garrick and Barry Allen have took turns as prisoners within, and a speedster is actually needed to keep the energies of the Speed Force in check or else it will threaten The Multiverse. The Speed Force can even send agents to capture anomalies (usually time-displaced speedsters) akin to a parole officer.
- Supergirl has the Phantom Zone. Like in Smallville, it houses other types of alien criminals as well as Kryptonians. At the start of the first season, a prison Space Station leaves the zone and crashes into Earth, letting all the prisoners escape, the better to create many an early Monster of the Week.
- Grimm: The Other Place, Another Dimension where humans are primitive and Wesen are dominant, appears to function as one for Zerstörer.
- Smallville has its own twist on the Phantom Zone, in which it is typically only the very worst criminals (such as General Zod) who are reduced to phantoms. Most retain their physical form.
- Supernatural: Purgatory mainly functions as the afterlife for all the monster souls in the universe. However, the Grim Reaper later reveals that it was originally built by God as a prison to prevent the primordial Leviathans, God's first beasts, from eating the rest of creation.
Mythology and Religion
- In Classical Mythology, The classic example would have to be Tartarus, in which it was a deep abyss where it had torment and suffering for the damned, especially those who offended the gods particularly.
- The Murder-Free Hotel: "Gay baby jail" is a Pocket Dimension full of weighted blankets where the Host can send anyone if they're causing too much trouble. Stew was sent there for a time after attempting suicide over being apparently upstaged by Pamela, and the Spy was sent afterwards for criticizing the Host's decision to do this. Much later, after Vivi gets the pink smoke, she also sends Hydroxyl there, after it's evident that many of the Hotel's residents cannot live peacefully with him around.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The Tarterian Depths of Carceri is home to the universe's traitors and exiles. It's not the worst of the Lower Planes (if you can survive the malice and backstabbing of its inhabitants), but while there are numerous portals linking to it, there are almost no ways out of the plane save for the River Styx, which is a dangerous route at best.
- Other planes aren't solely dedicated to imprisoning people, but have their own ways of sealing away problems. One layer of the Abyss is called the Wells of Darkness after the liquid-filled pits that imprison an assortment of godlings and demons, patrolled by undead that can kill with a gaze. The plane of Pandemonium consists of wind-blasted tunnels that grow narrower as one moves down through its layers, and it's rumored that various horrible creatures (or great treasures) have been sealed inside hidden vaults within the lowest layer's depths.
- Belierin, Elysium's swampy second layer, is a rare heavenly example. Long ago, a war party of guardinals came across the Hydra, the immortal paragon of hydras everywhere. They were unable to kill the immensely powerful monster, but also couldn't allow it to roam the planes at will, and thus decided to teleport it to Belierin. They then closed off the layer, making portals or planar travel to and from it impossible — the only way out is through the river Oceanus, which crosses the layer, but the Hydra cannot stand the touch and smell of its waters. The guardinals have developed a tendency to use Belierin as a prison for other evil beings that they can't destroy, and nobody but them is quite sure of how many monsters have been put into that particular can by now.
- Several in Magic: The Gathering:
- Zendikar didn't start out as one, and indeed it mostly isn't, since its denizens are capable of living their lives (as much as you can in a Death World, at least), and planeswalkers can come and go as they please. However, centuries before the current day of the story, three powerful planeswalkers manipulated the plane's leylines in order to imprisoned the immensely powerful Eldrazi here. They are freed by accident by Nissa Revane.
- Ixalan is one for planeswalkers. The presence of an immensely powerful artifact known as the Golden Sun (made by one of the same planeswalkers that imprisoned the Eldrazi) prevents planeswalking out of the plane. Planeswalkers who end up here by accident are stuck, and native planeswalkers can barely get a glimpse of the blind eternities before being pulled back.
- Bolas' Meditation Realm becomes one at the end of War of the Spark. Originally a plane for Bolas to meditate and consider his planes, it is hijacked by Ugin, its original creator, and used to imprison a severely weakened and crippled Nicol Bolas.
- The Strange has Homebound, a recursion where prisoners translate into armless, legless and eyeless versions of them selves and are wheeled into high-security cells, under both magical and technological wards, without the ability to interact with other prisoners.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura: An ancient Evlen council used to dump the most powerful villains into dimension called the Void instead of simply executing them, since it is possible to return Back from the Dead, but not from the Void. The plot point is that one of the banished is going to return anyway...
- Injustice: Gods Among Us: If the player completes arcade mode, a cutscene will show Regime Superman being sucked into the Phantom Zone's portal at the Fortress of Solitude. As he desperately tries to escape, he sees memories of the events leading to his FaceHeel Turn before being pulled in by a demon. Superman is then seen trapped inside a crystal, screaming in anguish as he is sent further into the Zone. This is also his fate in Injustice 2 if the player picks the Absolute Justice ending, where he tells Batman that he will make a comeback even if he's permanently depowered. Batman states that he'll be ready the day Superman escapes the Phantom Zone.
- Killer Instinct: Both Eyedol and his Arch-Enemy Gargos were trapped in a dimensional prison until Ultratech broke them out.
- Kingdom Hearts: It's stated in Kingdom Hearts II, and later elaborated on in Birth by Sleep, that Pete's constant troublemaking led Mickey and Minnie to banish him to another dimension, where he remained until Maleficent found and recruited him.
- The "trap books" in Myst work this way, designed to capture greedy interlopers. Riven explains that they are Linking Books that seem to lead to another world, but have flaws in them that prevents the link from being completed, leaving the traveler trapped in a featureless void with only the book's viewing panel to look out of, if they're so lucky that the book remains open. Anyone foolish enough to try the link after this would trade places with the trapped one. Later games retconned this so that the "trap books" were merely stable links to other worlds which contained no way back.
- Remnants of Isolation: As said in the game's description, the setting of the game is "a castle in an isolated dimension", and it's meant to imprison mages.
- The Hidden Object Game Surface: The Pantheon is mostly set in a Prison Dimension: a hollow-world-style holding area in which a slave-trading race of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens leave abducted humans, other aliens, and animals to fend for themselves until they're put up for sale.
- In Sonic Forces, Sonic and the Avatar/Custom character are sent to Null Space, a dimensional prison of nothingness made by villains Eggman and Infinite. The eventually break out thanks to Super Speed, Determination and The Power of Friendship.
- Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse episode 1 lampshades this with the Penal Zone. (Heh heh, "Penal Zone.")
- The SCP Foundation has a few of these.
- SCP-2701 is a prison cell that is a portal to a prison dimension where inhabitants are subjected to total sensory deprivation. Not only that, but time passes much more slowly in the cell than in our dimension, and prisoners are essentially immortal. The prison warden, grief-stricken and angry after the murder of his daughter, eventually "sentences" all of his prisoners to the cell. One isn't scheduled for release until the 34th century -- our time.
- SCP-2317 is slowly revealed over multiple entries to be one of these for a massive humanoid creature imprisoned in a spherical cavern beneath its desert landscape. Turns out that six of the seven chains binding it are broken and it's all but guaranteed to break out and destroy the world inside of a century. The Foundation can't even re-imprison it because they'd need the bones of a similar entity to fashion new chains and they have no idea how to find one much less kill it.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! uses the Negative Zone Prison idea from the comic book Civil War arc, but instead casts it as the prison that Hank Pym, Tony Stark, and Reed Richards create after a massive prison break freed all the supervillians from the four old Super-prisons. Each inmate gets a 8x8 Cell and a personal Ultron Robot Warden. Many of the Avengers consider the idea morally questionable but don't have good answers when asked for a better idea.
- Ben 10 has the Null Void, which was originally a penal colony created by the Galvan to house their own prisoners, but soon the rest of the universe, including the Plumbers, found out and used it as well.
- Jackie Chan Adventures has the Netherworld, a dimension that the Demon Sorcerers were banished to by the Eight Immortals. The Netherworld is a seemingly infinite void filled with floating rocks, which condemns the Demons to an eternity of boredom.
- Miraculous Ladybug has Pixelator's Blank White Void, where he traps anyone he attacks via Phantom Zone Picture. A Reality Bleed via Cat Noir's Cataclysm ends up being needed to free everyone.
- The Containment Unit in The Real Ghostbusters eventually evolves into this. It has become a huge endless Dark World inhabited by all the ghosts and spirits that the ghostbusters ever captured.