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Prison Episode

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The daughter: This is a picture of me and my father. We used to go to the park everyday. But now my father can't, because he is in prison. Today my mother is taking me and my little brother to prison to see our father. My mother told us that we can talk to our father, but we can't touch him or hug him.

A prison-centered installment in a larger work that is otherwise not about prison. It might be an episode in a serial, a sequence in a video game, or a few chapters in a book.

Usually this involves one or more major characters being in prison, or at least in noticeably prison-like circumstances. In some cases, they might run the prison. Be on the watch for Clear My Name, Clear Their Name, or a Prison Riot, among other things.

When this trope shows up in video games, you can expect the inventory of the player character(s) to be taken away. This results in the player having to use stealth and cunning to avoid the guards, until the hero(es) get their inventory back.

Despite this being only a segment of the series, it might end up having permanent effects on the tone of the series from that point on. For example, it may portray major characters as becoming more inclined to crime as a result of said imprisonment. More generally, a prison episode is often used to show and/or begin a Darker and Edgier Tone Shift.


Compare Bizarro Episode, Sick Episode, Very Special Episode.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Devil May Cry: The Animated Series episode "Wishes Come True" has a guy being sent to prison due to the machinations of an evil "wish-granting" demon mask, and Dante not only has to bust him out, but deal with the demonic security staff and the demon mask behind this mess.
  • In Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro was lead into Villainy Prison by Jackal and had to fight the notorious killer Devil Rebirth. Later in the series is the Cassandra arc, where he must free his captive brother Toki, but not without a fight against the cruel warden Uighur.
  • In Jing King Of Bandits, Jing heads to the prison Seventh Heaven in order to find Campari and steal his dream-making power.
  • In One Piece, Monkey D. Luffy breaks into Impel Down, the Marine Forces' top maximum-security prison, in an attempt to free his brother Ace. He succeeds in rescuing Ace, but ends up losing him anyway.

    Asian Animation 
  • Lamput: "Doc & The Thief" is one for Fat Doc, who had his clothing and item mixed up with an actual thief as the crook was being chased. Lamput ultimately frees Fat Doc from jail and leads the two to regain their original attire and whatnot.

    Comic Books 
  • The Batman comic books have featured at least a couple of stories involving Batman being a prisoner in Arkham Asylum: "This Way Lies Madness"/"Asylum Sinister" in Batman #327-328 and "The Last Arkham" in Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1-4 to name two.
  • Both Daredevil and The Punisher have had arcs or issues set in prisons. One time actually had Daredevil put into prison and the Punisher had himself committed to watch Daredevil lose his mind.
  • Jonah Hex: In an arc starting in #76 of the original series, Jonah his hired by the governor to undercover in the state penitentiary to root out corruption. As part of his cover, he is convicted of bank robbery. However, the whole thing is a scheme orchestrated by Hex's Archenemy Quentin Turnbull, who intends to leave Hex to rot in prison. After the governor, the who only man who could verify Hex's claims, dies Hex is forced to break out of prison in order to clear his name.
  • In Kid Colt, Outlaw #118, Kid Colt is duped into being arrested and sent to state prison. Once there he find himself Working on the Chain Gang with three villains he had sent there: "Bull" Barton, Dr. Danger, and the Scorpion.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes had one in the Silver Age, the Super Stalag Of Space!
  • The Ms. Tree arc "Prisoner in Cell Block Hell''.
  • Except for a couple of flashbacks, the whole issue 36 of Paperinik New Adventures, "The Day That Will Come," is set in Time Zero, the prison of the Time Police, since Paperinik was Arrested for Heroism... just in time for a jailbreak. It is one of the darkest issues of the series.
  • Robyn Hood: In The Hunt miniseries, Robyn is imprisoned in an inter-dimensional prison and has to escape.
  • Both movie and comic versions of Sin City include a very existential-looking prison for John Hartigan.
  • "Cruel and Unusual", an X-Men: Gold story arc, sees the X-Men imprisoned for a while thanks to a mind-control fuelled Frame-Up.

    Fan Works 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series: "Time Terror" is this for Socrates, being in the Wild West.
  • Prison Island Break is a Sonic the Hedgehog Alternate Universe Fic with the Contextual Reassignment of a prison — not just the canon characters going to prison for once, but actively being convicted criminals. Active and completely unrepentant for the most part. All of the powers/talents that make them heroes in canon are simply redirected to criminal ends. Sonic robbed a bank, nearly managed a second one, killed a cop in the process and escaped normal prisons with utter ease. Shadow killed his foster parents, then used his Chaos Control to rape and murder young women. He started killing men "just to even it out" and was only caught by complete accident on his part.
  • Sonic X fanfic Don't Keep Your Distance has a scene where protagonist Paint and her friend (and Dr. Eggman's robot) Star are arrested and preparing for trial after she brings it to her village and is accused of endangering it. Nevertheless, they seem to like the officer and their guard and spend most of their time happily talking.

    Film — Animation 
  • Toy Story 3 has strong prison themes, with Sunnyside Daycare as a prison-equivalent, complete with a Great Escape. Bonus points for the shock value of a prison-themed installment in a G-rated Pixar series.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Beyond Re-Animator takes place in a prison, where Herbert West is incarcerated.
  • Ernest Goes to Jail has Ernest going to jail due to the machinations of a crooked lawyer representing an evil crimelord on trial for murder charges who is a dead ringer for him.
  • Madea Goes to Jail, a movie about a woman who was arrested for her behavior management problems.
  • Muppets Most Wanted has Kermit spend the majority of the movie in a Russian gulag after being mistaken for a frog criminal named Constantine who looks like him.
  • The Three Stooges short So Long, Mr. Chumps has the boys getting themselves into prison to spring an innocent man.

  • The third CHERUB book, Maximum Security, has James and his friends sent to infiltrate an American maximum security prison.
  • Nick Velvet: In "The Theft of the Convict's Calendar", Nick is hired to steal a calendar from inside a cell in a maximum security prison.
  • Subverted when Chip gets thrown in the brig in The Rats, The Bats, and The Ugly: He wants to stay in the brig where he gets a mattress and three meals a day. At the front, he doesn't get that.
  • The novella "The Borders of Infinity" in the Vorkosigan Saga is set in a very nasty but technically legal prisoner of war camp.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Much of the beginning of Season 2 of 24 has Jack in prison to break out a drug kingpin as part of a larger plan.
  • In Arrested Development, the first season has George, Sr. in prison. However, as part of an "illusion", his son GOB goes to prison for an episode to prove he can escape in 24 hours time. He escapes when an inmate shivs him and he's taken to a hospital.
    • Later, Tobias spends some time in prison to research the role of Frightened Inmate #2.
  • Arrow: Much of "Broken Arrow" is set inside Iron Heights and focuses on Roy's attempts to survive in prison after he confesses to being the Arrow.
  • The episode of The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon commits contempt of court - or rather utter contempt of the judge - and is sent to the cells until he apologises. Although Sheldon Cooper out-weirds hardened criminals to the point where "you're in my spot" makes a tough con give up his seat to the psycho, the thing that makes him crack and make a grovelling apology is when he realizes the awful truth about the bathroom facilities...
  • Bonanza:
    • The 1971 episode "Kingdom of Fear" is set at a prison camp and is based on Cool Hand Luke.
    • The 1972 episode "Riot!" meant to address sub-human living conditions prevalent in the era — and to a point, even in the early 1970s, when this episode was aired ... and to a point, even today. The episode introduces Tim Matheson to viewers as the long-running series' last major new character: Griff King, who is paroled to the Cartwright's custody; Denver Pyle, who became known later as Jesse Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard, plays the uncaring, cold-hearted prison warden.
  • Burn Notice:
    • Fiona spends a chunk of season six trying to survive in prison, while Michael works to get her out.
    • Michael also voluntarily goes to prison for an episode to help protect an old buddy of Sam's.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    • "Maximum Security": Detective Amy Santiago spends the episode infiltrating a prison in Texas, trying to get vital information from a prisoner. Her boyfriend Jake Peralta is her handler and he's really scared she's gonna get hurt.
    • "Coral Palms, Part 2": Captain Holt and Detective Peralta spend a part of the episode in a small town jail in Florida. The local sheriff doesn't buy their explanation that they're in Witness Protection.
    • "The Big House, Part 1" & "The Big House, Part 2": Season 4 ended with a Wham Line: two detectives from the 99th precinct, framed for a series of bank robberies, are sentenced to 15 years. The opener of season 5 sees them imprisoned and having a hard time.
  • The Charmed season 8 episode Run, Piper, Run has Piper thrown into jail in someone else's stead. Sort of, she had accidentally magically glamoured into fugitive murder suspect, Maya Holmes, hence the mistake. Except Maya was actually innocent and framed all along, so the Charmed Ones set out to clear her name and save her from the real murderer before Piper changes her glamour.
    • In previous episodes throughout the series, Prue (twice), Paige, Phoebe and Piper (together), and Chris were at some point locked up in muggle jails due to magical shenanigans. A recurring plot was them having to break out to fight the Demon of the week, only to then swiftly return behind bars just in time to have their names cleared once the magical crisis was over.
  • In Covert Affairs Annie is taken to a high security prison in Russia.
  • In the CSI: NY episode "Redemptio", Hawkes goes to a prison to witness the execution of a death row inmate who murdered his sister. Just as it is about to take place, a guard is killed. This is revealed to be a plot by Shane Casey, who is using the murder as a distraction to escape using Danny's stolen badge. In the process, the prison cells are unlocked, resulting in a Prison Riot.
  • Decoy has "Deadly Corridor," in which Casey goes undercover in the minimum security wing of a women's prison to solve the murder of an inmate who was stabbed fourteen times with a sharpened spoon.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A significant portion of "The Mind of Evil" takes place in Stangmoor prison, loosely based on the real life HMP Manchester/Strangeways.
    • The Doctor spends several episodes of "Frontier in Space" incarcerated in a lunar Prison Colony.
    • "Heaven Sent" doubles as this and a Torture Chamber Episode, as the Doctor is trapped in a mysterious clockwork castle by unidentified enemies. It turns out that he's inside his own confession dial.
  • Due South: Ray gets sent to prison for being in contempt of court. In order to watch Ray's back as well as protect an important witness in Ray's case, Fraser intentionally commits a crime and gets sent to prison himself; but he's so straitlaced that the cop who's arresting him as a favor has to be the one who puts the single candy bar in his pocket.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Although it was always Boss Hogg's goal to send Bo and Luke Duke to prison, and most episodes did involve the Duke boys tricking Rosco into letting them escape from jail, only one episode — the terrifying "Cool Hands, Luke and Bo", a brilliant adaptation of Cool Hand Luke — was actually set at a prison, and a prison camp at that.
  • The Ellen episode "Three Strikes" revolves around her being arrested for participating in an animal rights protest and ultimately remanded to the custody of her parents.
  • And on Everybody Loves Raymond, there is the episode where Debra Barone is arrested and incarcerated for drunk driving. Seeing her in the lock-up makes her brother-in-law, Lieutenant Robert Barone, do a very big double-take.
  • Farscape's Rashomon episode "The Ugly Truth" features most of the crew on a disc like prison-thing.
  • In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "Mistaken Identity" both Will and Carton are arrested due to racial profiling. In "There's the Rub" Will and Phil are mistakenly jailed for solicitation.
  • Father Brown: In "The Wayward Girls", Bunty reunites with Father Brown to uncover a dark secret at the local girls' borstal.
  • The Goodies: "Goodies in the Nick" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. The Goodies spend several years in prison after committing a series of crimes for a police sergeant to solve so he can gain a promotion.
  • Hannibal: Season 1's finale ends with Will Graham incarcerated, framed by Hannibal Lecter as the Copycat Killer. The first half of season 2 follows up with him trying to expose Hannibal and prove his own innocence.
  • Hawaii Five-0 has an episode in which Chin is kidnapped and wakes up in prison, where the Dirty Cop that Chin got incarcerated wants to have some fun with him before killing him. Unable to trust the guards, Chin resorts to starting a fire in the hope that he can communicate with the rescue workers. The fire triggers a prison riot that Chin must survive long enough for Five-0 to rescue him.
  • Henry Danger had the episode "Christmas Danger" which is surprisingly, a Christmas Episode only in name, but a prison episode in plot.
  • In House, the title character is sent to prison after his actions during the season 7 finale. The first episode of season 8 sees him on the verge of being granted parole. The following episodes go on to inconsistently reference his status as a conditionally released prisoner (he is forced to wear an ankle-mounted GPS, which viewers are sometimes reminded of).
  • JAG had "The Prisoner" in its first season in which Harm was held by the Chinese.
  • Jake and the Fatman: In "Danny Boy", McCabe's bottled-up feelings are unleashed when he's called to the state prison where his inmate son witnessed a murder.
  • On Leverage, the season 3 pilot features this after Nate is voluntarily sent to prison to protect the rest of the team. Notable in that it avoids a dark feel due to the team staging an escape in typical Leverage fashion.
  • Longstreet: In "The Shape of Nightmares", a young widow asks Mike to look into the apparent suicide of her husband, who died in prison. Mike enters the prison to investigate, and discovers evidence that he was actually murdered. A convict that Mike had sent to jail is now the "Head of the Yard," running the other inmates like a mob-boss from inside the prison walls, intent on getting revenge on Longstreet. Mike must use all his wits to solve the murder and stay alive.
  • MacGyver (1985):
    • In "The Escape", mac infiltrates a prison in French North Africa in order to break out an unjustly imprisoned missionary.
    • In "Jack in the Box", Jack Dalton is sent to a prison farm by a Corrupt Hick who is using the prisoners as a workforce for his mine. Mac ends up in the same prison when he goes looking for Jack.
  • MacGyver (2016): In the episode Can Opener, Mac has to infiltrate a maximum-security prison and break out a drug kingpin so he can find his cartel's secret location. All goes well until partway through the breakout, when Mac blows his cover preventing the kingpin from killing a guard.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil (2015) has "Seven Minutes in Heaven" in season 2, which has great focus on Wilson Fisk's time in prison, and Fisk manipulating Frank Castle into disposing of Dutton, the current prison "kingpin". Season 3 gives us "Blindsided," where Matt goes to the prison to gather information on Fisk, only to walk into a trap Fisk has engineered just for him on the off-chance he came by.
    • Jessica Jones (2015): In the second season, Jessica's mother Alisa is turned in for being the superpowered serial killer killing people from IGH's sketchy past. Two episodes are spent that focus on her time in prison, until she breaks out with the intention of going after Trish after Trish indirectly gets Alisa's doctor/lover Karl Malus killed.
    • Luke Cage (2016) has "Step into the Arena", told mostly in flashbacks, documenting Luke Cage's time as an inmate at Seagate Penitentiary up to the experimentation that gave him his durable skin.
  • Midnight Caller has "Life Without Possibility," in which Jack persuades rioting prisoners to release the security guards they've captured and take him as a hostage instead. Unfortunately, Jack is a former cop who arrested some of the rioters in the first place. One of the prisoners beats him up and almost gouges out his eye before another prisoner stops him.
  • Murder, She Wrote had "Jessica Behind Bars". While it's set in a jail, Jessica is only there because of a writing program that involves a former student.
  • The first half of the third season of My Name Is Earl follows Earl as he serves time for confessing to a crime committed by his ex-wife, Joy.
  • NCIS: McGee gets tangled up in a women's prison riot in "Caged." The plot revolves on him trying to resolve the conflict and the other characters trying to get him out alive. Notably, he is significantly more badass afterwards.
  • On NCIS: Los Angeles, Sam Hanna spends an episode in prison...undercover as "Hakeem Fayed" as part of a plan to infiltrate a terrorist cell. It helps that his friend Nate Getz is also undercover as a prison psychologist, allowing the two of them to fine-tune their plan.
  • The Partridge Family has "Go Directly to Jail," in which the family performs at a prison, where one of the inmates to trick them into spending the night so he can sell them some songs he wrote. Turns out he plagiarized them from another prisoner. The real writer is willing to let them use his songs as long as he's credited under a fake name.
  • Person of Interest has a several-episode arc in which Reese is held in prison on suspicion of being The Man In The Suit.
  • The episode “Solitary Confinement” of Psi Factor is set in prison. In order to investigate the death of a man who died in solitary confinement, Peter Axon goes under cover as an inmate.
  • Red Dwarf's eighth series was an extended prison episode.
  • Seinfeld is the rare example where the Prison Episode is the Grand Finale.
  • Sesame Street: The special Little Children, Big Challenge: Incarceration has a Muppet kid named Alex who has a father in jail. Older characters explain what incarceration is, saying when somebody violates the law (a grownup rule), they have to go to jail or prison.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • "The Chute" has Tom and Harry sent to an orbiting prison after being falsely accused of terrorism.
    • "Repentance" is an interesting case in that Voyager itself is turned into a prison for several death-row inmates.
  • The Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Canamar" is a variation; the episode is named for a notorious prison, yet Archer and Trip spend the whole time on a prison transport that never actually makes it there.
  • Supernatural has "Folsom Prison Blues" which features Dean and Sam deliberately getting themselves arrested so that they can solve a case inside a prison.
  • Victorious had a one-hour special where the gang visits a country named Yerba, and eventually, one missing eye and dead octopus later, everyone gets sent to prison. Andre and Beck have rocks thrown at them, Jade is nearly beat up by another prisoner, and Robbie is put on the girl's side. They manage to escape thanks to their teacher, though.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: Several, with either the Rangers or Alex posing as inmates to expose corruption. Examples:
    • "Break In," from Season 4, had Walker and Trivette posing as an inmate and guard, respectively, to gather evidence on an inmate who ordered the deaths of a witness (on whose testimony he was convicted) and two Rangers, but run into complications when the convict and prison administration are found to be in cahoots.
    • "State vs. Cahill," near the end of Season 5, has Alex unjustly held on murder charges, and while held in jail, she has to deal with inmates whom she prosecuted.
    • "Mr. Justice," from the sixth season has Walker and the Rangers fighting the bureaucracy of a state senator who is opposed to opening a boot camp for young offenders, as a "second chance" and alternative to prison. Much of the action, aside from the senator's efforts to derail Walker's efforts, shows the offenders being helped to turn their lives around.
    • "Fight or Die, toward the end of Season 7, sees Walker, Gage and Trivette pose as hardened inmates (former two) and a guard (Trivette) to bring down an underground prize-fighting ring, where the warden and a corrupt promoter are forcing inmates to fight for their lives in mixed martial arts-type matches.
  • In the Without a Trace episode "Penitence", the Victim of the Week is a convict who may have escaped or met with foil play within the prison.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess had "Locked Up and Tied Down" where she went to prison for killing a girl long ago except the girl became the prison's warden.

    Video Games 
  • Case 2 of the second Ace Attorney Investigations. Notably the victim here was the killer in the first case, and the murderer from the very first case in the series appears as a witness.
  • Connor finds himself in a depressing recreation of Bridewell Prison in Assassin's Creed III, after a violent altercation leads to a cross-city pursuit that gets him arrested and framed.
  • On the route to the Golden Ending of Aviary Attorney, the protagonists tell the king that they'll defend him in court and the king, offended at the implication that he doesn't have a 100% Adoration Rating, throws them in jail. An allied prosecutor lets them out and says the charges are dropped.
  • In Bravely Default the party is knocked unconscious trying to pass through the enemy stronghold and are thrown in prison, except for Edea, who very easily takes the cell keys and breaks into the prison to break the rest of the party out. Amusingly, when she enters the prison, a party chat can be viewed where the rest of the party comes to the conclusion that Edea is suffering a far worse fate than them and are planning a wacky escape scheme, only for Edea to come in and point out how loud they were yelling their plans (they're held in separate cells and were unsure of how far they were from each other.). It's even funnier when the random encounters reveal there most definitely ARE a lot of guards patrolling the cells.
  • Chrono Trigger has one sequence in a prison cell. However, it follows a very humorous scene and precedes a challenging boss, so it's better than most. It is especially interesting because the prison lets you keep your sword.
    • There are two prison sequences in Chrono Trigger. The second one strips the party of equipment, inventory, and cash after the party is distracted by a Look Behind You. Ensues a Stealth-Based Mission unless Ayla is in the current party.
  • Command & Conquer: Renegade has you captured and stripped of your weapons.
  • In Daughter for Dessert, the protagonist spends a few days in jail after breaking into Cecilia’s hotel room.
  • Dead to Rights has an extremely long prison level early in the game, where the player has to compete in various minigames and do a lot of hand-to-hand combat to arrange a prison break.
  • Deus Ex features one of these after you send a warning signal to the NSF and antagonize UNATCO. Getting out of the cell is easy, while escaping the whole prison complex can be nigh-impossible depending on the character build.
  • Discworld Noir has a brief prison-escape scene at the Patrician's Palace, which takes Lewton into Leonard of Quirm's secret workshop. A subversion because, once he's broken out of his cell, Lewton has to repeatedly break back into the secret location he'd escaped through to close the case.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II opens with the party being trapped in a concentration camp for Sourcerers, with the first act devoted to finding a way to remove their Power Limiter collars and escape. There's also the main quest "Shadow Over Driftwood", where the party is captured by the mad Sourcerer Mordus following a Hopeless Boss Fight with his Voidwoken minions who web them up and drop them into different cells. However, it's possible to bypass this part of the quest entirely by abusing the Teleport spell and Teleporter Pyramids.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has an optional main quest called "Captured!", which sees your player character thrown into prison after either being defeated or turning themselves (and possibly their fellow Grey Warden) in; you can either break out alone (or with said companion) or select two of your party members to break in and rescue you. The latter option is probably the single biggest source of hilarity in an otherwise grimdark game.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition begins with a prison episode, as the player character is shackled and guarded by several soldiers with drawn swords, and they have no idea what's happened. Unlike most instances, however, they neither break out nor get rescued; rather, they accompany their captors to deal with the situation at hand.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Each game in the main series (except for Daggerfall) starts the Player Character off as a prisoner. Escaping or being released is usually part of the tutorial, before the game Opens The Sandbox.
    • If you commit a crime and then speak to a guard, you have the options of paying a fine, going to jail, or resisting arrest. Choosing to go to jail, depending on the game, either has an amount of time pass based on the size of your bounty or literally puts you in a jail cell with the options to try to escape or sleep in the bed to serve your sentence. In each case save for escape, one of your skills will randomly decrease as part of the punishment. (Simulating not using it due to being in jail.)
    • Morrowind has a mission during the main quest to break into the Ministry of Truth, the Tribunal Temple's maximum security prison for blasphemers and heretics, in order to rescue a friend who is imprisoned there. The prison is built into a hollowed-out moonlet which hovers over Vivec City, requiring levitation to reach. There, you must sneak past or fight through scores of the Temple's elite Ordinators to bring your friend the teleportation scroll needed to escape.
    • Skyrim has a second prison episode as well - when you first enter Markarth you get to witness an innocent woman (potentially - you can stop it if you're quick) being murdered in the middle of a crowded city square. If you work with a local miner to investigate, the corrupt guards eventually pin the murder on you and throw you in prison. You're stuck in there until you find a way to escape.
  • The 1982 Escape From Rungistan game starts with "escape from a jail cell". You had to (a) ask a guard to bring you dinner (b) give a piece of cheese to a mouse (c) move your bed under a window (d) give a piece of candy to a child and (e) dig a hole in a wall to get out.
  • In Fable I, the Hero is captured and sent to Jack's dungeon for at least a year. Part of escaping involves winning a race against the other inmates and being "rewarded" with a private recitation of the warden's poetry.
    • A similar sequence happens in the Spire in Fable II, but this time, you're actually hired as one of the guards, and you have to help break out one of the prisoners in a period lasting about ten years.
  • There are several examples of this is the Final Fantasy series.
  • Grand Theft Auto 2 has a level where you specifically have to get arrested and then spend time in prison before escaping again.
  • Illusion of Gaia throws Will into the castle dungeon near the beginning of the game.
  • In Kingdom Hearts II, the first (and unplanned) visit to Space Paranoids revolves around the party being in a digital prison following an accident involving a mysterious blue alien. With the help of a friendly program named Tron, they manage to escape their cell, and subsequently escape the computer that's imprisoned them.
  • Used a number of times in The Legend of Zelda:
  • Kaim and company in Lost Odyssey are at one point obliged to escape from the brig of a royal yacht, dodging security drones and pussy-footing across pressure-sensitive floor tiles. Hilariously, they begin their escape by wiping the memory of their guard and convincing him that they were jailed by accident, so even if the player makes a mistake and the party gets caught again, the guard will apologize and let them back out.
  • Chapter six of Mafia II, "Time well Spent," follows Vitto as he serves time inside Hartmann Federal Penitentiary.
  • In Max Payne, Max is drugged, tied up, whacked with a baseball bat, and still manages to get out and continue his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • In Metal Gear, Snake is thrown in a jail cell... from which the player can escape in seconds simply by punching the wall. The prison escape sequences of Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 3, however, were fun and memorable.
  • In Planet Alcatraz, although the whole planet is technically is a prison, the Industrial Area is the only place that most resembles a prison, or more precisely, a labor camp. You're stripped of all belongings and have to run errands for the bosses to get promoted, before having the opportunity to escape. One of the Non-Standard Game Over screens implies you spend the rest of your life there working.
  • In Penny Arcade's parody RPG, On The Rain Slick Precipice Of Darkness Episode 2 the main characters are at one point placed in a sanitarium. While your two companions are locked up, tied down or what-have-you, your character is allowed to run completely free, albeit disarmed. On the other hand, when you rescue your friends, they haven't been disarmed.
  • The last level of the 2005 Punisher game features Frank Castle in Ryker's Island during a prison riot led by Jigsaw. He starts out unarmed, but quickly gets guns from the mooks.
  • In Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire, the titular hero gets his behind tossed in the prison of Raseir. This is the first time in the game where it's not an instant death and involves breaking out, but this was all a plan by the game's villain, who then proceeds to show up after your break, and have his evil ways with you.
    • And again in Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness where the now-undead evil vizier Ad Avis from Trial by Fire traps you in his dungeon. Yet again part of a bigger plan, seeing as he hopes you figure out how to break out and kill the Master of Darkness. Too bad the Master of Darkness is someone you know and by hammering a stake trough the vampire's chest, you earn a Game over! Ad Avis... will you never learn.
  • Randal's Monday: After Randal is wrongly accused of Matt's murder.
  • At one point in Resistance 3, you are captured by bandits who use a local prison as their base. They force you to fight in a gladiatorial arena, until one of their own has a change of heart and frees you, giving you The Mutator, a gun that essentially makes enemies puke themselves to death. Brutal revenge ensues.
  • Saints Row 2: The game begins in a prison; your character has to bust out after awakening from a 5-year coma after the events of the previous game. They have to break in (and back out again) later, when a drugs specialist is required.
  • In Shadowman the main character is tasked with tracking down and killing five serial killers and take away the dark souls that empower them. Three of them are in the same prison, and have started a riot. Because the lockdown prevents the player character from exploring the whole prison, he must use portals in Deadside to access different parts of the prison.
  • Silent Hill 2 has a level exploring a prison beneath the lake of the town.
    • The main character of Silent Hill: Downpour is a convict who escaped after his prison transfer bus crashed in the town. The last level of the game has the town transporting him to a prison where he must finally confront his past.
  • Sonic Adventure 2 sees Sonic taken to Prison Island after being mistaken for Shadow. A handful of stages take place on the island, some within the prison complex itself.
  • In Space Rangers 2 engaging in criminal activity may result in the character being sentenced to several months in jail. This triggers one of the game's many text-based minigames. Throughout his stay the character can join a fight club, race cockroaches, become a stool pigeon for the guards and, if he plays his cards right, come out much richer than he was going in. Granted, he may also die, but that's a minor detail.
  • In Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Sam goes undercover as a prisoner to infiltrate a domestic terror organization and earn their trust.
  • Tales of Symphonia has Lloyd, the main character, tossed into a Desian prison in the middle of the desert. He busts out on his own, just before the party shows up... too late.
  • In Temtem, the Player Character is arrested upon entering the Underground City of Quetzal as the result of a Frame-Up, losing their Mons and gear. You escape with the aid of your airship crewmates and have to fight your way through the mines surrounding the prison with a donated party.
  • The last segment of Tex Murphy: Overseer takes place on the island prison of Alkatraz. Tex Murphy finds himself trapped a cell and must escape and make his way deep into the prison while avoiding deadly security droids.
  • Tomb Raider III puts Lara in this.
  • Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne has a campaign mission where Lady Vashj and Kael'thas free the Blood Elves from the Dalaran dungeons, which are full of ultra horrifying monsters. It isn't a bad level, but at the end of the day it isn't as challenging as the normal base-building campaign missions.
    • World of Warcraft has the Stockades, an instanced prison dungeon in the center of Stormwind serving prior to the Cataclysm as a continuation of the Defias questline and now updated to fit current miscreants.
  • At one point in Watch_Dogs, Aiden sneaks into a prison (by turning himself in, gun in hand) in order to frighten/save a witness.
  • XIII features one (two?) levels inside Plain Rock Asylum, a mental institution.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster Capsule GB, Seto Kaiba's RPG World starts with Yugi's imprisonment.

    Web Animation 
  • Gaming All Stars 2: “Breakout”, involves a mass prison escape led by Michael and Trevor as one of its pivotal conflicts.
  • Lobo (Webseries): In the four part story arc "Bustin' Out Of Oblivion", Lobo tries to free Slaz and his lover Major Snake from Oblivion Intergalactic Correctional Facility.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The 101 Dalmatians: The Series episode "Cadpig Behind Bars", where Cadpig is sent to the pound, which is run like a prison.
  • In Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Ickis gets put in jail because he was mistaken for a fugitive.
  • The Addams Family (1992) used this plot in the episode "Itt's Over", where Uncle Fester appeared to have killed Cousin Itt after handing him a hair remover formula intended to remove Fester's hair and Fester went to prison because Norman Normanmeyer reported the alleged murder to the police. In the end, Uncle Fester's name is cleared when Cousin Itt returns to prove he's not dead and Normanmeyer ends up behind bars for falsely accusing Uncle Fester of committing murder.
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog has "Sonic Breakout", which is about in-universe cartoonist Sketch Lampoon going to prison for making fun of Dr. Robotnik... and Sonic deliberately letting Robotnik's minions catch him so as to get behind bars to escape from prison and take Sketch with him.
  • American Dad! has episodes like these. Noticeable when Stan was sent to prison where he enjoys staying and doesn't want to leave.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has two prison episodes (technically three, since one is a two-parter):
    • Season one has "Imprisoned", where Katara deliberately gets herself imprisoned by the Fire Nation in an attempt to free a friend from said prison.
    • Season three has "The Boiling Rock", where Zuko and Sokka infiltrate a Fire Nation prison in the hopes of locating Sokka's father, who had been captured in the war a few weeks earlier.
  • In the episode "Birdbrain of Alcatraz", Beetlejuice is convicted of a crime (which, unusually for the character, he actually didn't commit) and is sent to prison. He has to survive a lot of weird, overly strict rules and share a cell with a literal stool pigeon while his friend Lydia works to prove his innocence.
  • In the Bojack Horseman episode "Our A-Story is a "D" Story", the subplot has Todd go to prison due to a botched scam involving a celebrity from the previous episode. Two rival gangs, the Aryan Nation and Latin Kings, both try to recruit Todd. When he tries (and fails) to court both of them, Todd winds up accidentally igniting a deadly prison gang war.
  • This is the premise of The Boondocks episode "A Date with the Booty Warrior", in which Tom and Ruckus take Huey, Riley, Butch, and four other schoolboys (who had all been suspended for fighting) on a precautionary field trip to the local prison, which is infested with depraved rapists who commit sodomy just to satisfy their boredom. Things soon go very wrong when the inmates start a riot, and they take the protagonists as hostages.
  • Camp Lakebottom: In "Camp Lockbottom", Rosebud turns Camp Lakebottom into a prison after her favourite ladle goes missing. Prison tropes immediately set in with McGee planning a Great Escape and Armand getting prison tattoos cut into his fur.
  • The Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode "Jail House Flock" has Captain Planet in jail when Hoggish Greedly has him arrested for damaging his equipment and trespassing on his property by lying about intending to replace the wetlands his construction project will destroy. The Planeteers manage to get away and do what they can to clear Captain Planet's name.
  • The ChalkZone episode The Label Police had Snap being sent to Label Prison for removing a tag from his pillow. He spends the episode attempting to break out with the other prisoners, who include the polar bear for putting a "dry clean only" shirt into a washing machine and a 7-year-old girl for solving a jigsaw puzzle that is only for people 8 or older.
  • The Cow and Chicken episode "Field Trip to Folsom Prison" had Chicken mistakenly switch places with an inmate named Rhode Island Red while his class was on a field trip to a prison. Cow doesn't notice the switch until she realizes that Rhode Island Red enjoys playing the games she asks her brother to play with her.
  • The Danny Phantom episode "Prisoners of Love" has Danny get arrested by Walker and locked up in the Ghost Zone Prison while trying to retrieve an apology present his father Jack got for his mother Maddie, which he had mistakenly sent through the Ghost Zone portal while using his powers to clean up the lab.
  • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: The 1984 episode "Busted," although the prison serves as a backdrop to the episode's Scare 'Em Straight purpose. In essence: The gang is given a terrifying tour of a prison after they are caught in a car a friend — who had run afoul of the law many times before — had stolen. Needless to say, the tour makes the right impression on the kids.
  • Garfield and Friends has "Wanted: Wade", where Wade Duck rips the tag off Orson Pig's sofa. About 2 minutes of the episode is a fantasy sequence where Wade dreams about what would happen if the police caught him for what he did.
    • A later episode, "The Legal Eagle", had Roy jailing everyone because he took his job as deputy too seriously, only to find out that the rules in the book he used were outdated.
  • In the season two premiere of Gargoyles, "Leader of the Pack", Coyote, at the behest of Xanatos, breaks out the rest of the Pack.
  • In the Green Eggs and Ham (2019) episode, "Mouse", Sam-I-Am gets arrested and thrown in jail. Guy-Am-I ends up believing that Sam has a plan to get him out that requires Guy to be in prison as well, so Guy turns himself in and also gets arrested, only to find out that Sam didn't actually have a plan, but is still glad to have Guy with him. They end up having to follow a mouse who has been working on an escape plan for many years.
  • Heckle and Jeckle end up in prison after they try to sell escape tools to the prisoners in "Super Salesmen." They escape in "Out Again, In Again" and hide out on a train, only to wind back in prison again at the end.
  • In the Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi episode "Cell Block Rock", Ami and Yumi try on disguises to avoid running into rabid fans, but accidentally glue the fake facial hair they use for their disguises to their faces. As a result, Kaz mistakes them for trespassers and has them thrown into jail, where Yumi pleads to be set free while Ami initially gets accustomed to prison life.
  • The Huckleberry Hound Show: Huck is a prison warden in the cartoon "Bars and Stripes." His prison establishes the "honor system"; none of the prisoners want to escape because it features amusement rides, a baseball field, a movie theater, etc. But when one prisoner is set to be paroled and released, Huck has to go through white heat to get him out.
  • In an episode of the second season of Jackie Chan Adventures, "Rumble in the Big House", both the Dark Hand and Jackie get themselves sent to prison. The former to release Xiao Fung, the Wind Demon, and the latter to try stop them.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes has "Jimmy in the Big House", where Jimmy and Beezy try to bust Cerbee out of an animals-only prison by disguising themselves as pandas. Unfortunately, Cerbee had already escaped by himself, so the duo now have to get themselves out.
  • Johnny Test has "Cool Hand Johnny", where the evil toymaker Wacko creates a video game called No Escape, which sends robot guards to capture all the kids in Porkbelly, including Johnny and Dukey.
  • The Littlest Pet Shop (2012) episode "Gailbreak!" is about retrieving a dog held in the Largest Ever Pet Shop's pet storage area, which is portrayed much like a prison.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • "Bars And Stripes Forever" (1939) is set in a prison where a prisoner plans an escape past a rather daffy warden. Features a little Butt-Monkey of an inmate.
    • "Big House Bunny" (1950) has Bugs Bunny digging into a prison and being mistaken for a prisoner. He gives Yosemite Sam (here as prison guard Sam Schultz) the usual onceover.
  • The Looney Tunes Show episode "Jailbird and Jailbunny" had Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck end up in prison.
  • "Cellbound," a 1955 Tex Avery-Michael Lah cartoon at M-G-M starred a squat version of Tex Avery's Spike character as a prison inmate. He escapes and hides out in the console of a TV set on a train, entertaining ideas of his new found life of freedom, until the TV set he's in is loaded onto a truck and delivered to the prison warden's office.
  • The majority of the Mumfie's Quest arc of Magic Adventures of Mumfie is this, which is rather shocking for a show meant for preschoolers.
  • The Mickey MouseWorks short "Big House Mickey" has Mickey ending up in jail because Mortimer framed him for breaking into his house and stealing his property. Mickey then has to try and get Goofy's help to bust out of prison before Mortimer takes his place at his dinner date with Minnie.
  • Phineas and Ferb has Phineas And Ferb Get Busted. While what they are sent to is called a reform school, it is most certainly run like a prison.
  • Rugrats, "The Big House" wherein Tommy is inside a daycare center that, much like the above example, looks and feels like a prison.
  • The Simpsons has several of them, mostly involving the villains, but occasionally major characters (especially Homer, sometimes Marge) end up in jail as well.
  • In "Opening Night" of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spidey volunteers to test the security system of The Vault, a prison designed to house super villains. Unfortunately the prison's computers are hacked by the Green Goblin, locking all the guards up as the prisoners are let out of their cells.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has actually had a few prison episodes:
    • In "Doing Time", Mrs. Puff gets arrested after yet another one of SpongeBob's failed driving tests, and SpongeBob and Patrick try to break her out after they agree it was SpongeBob's fault.
    • In "The Inmates of Summer", SpongeBob and Patrick accidentally board a prison ship instead of the summer camp boat they meant to get on.
    • In "Jailbreak", Plankton, who is imprisoned after yet another failed attempt at stealing the Krabby Patty Formula, concocts a plan with a few other inmates to break out.
    • In "The Getaway", SpongeBob crashes his boat into the Bikini Bottom Jail after yet another failed driving test. There, he mistakes an escaped convict for his new driving instructor. SpongeBob's crazy driving results in the convict begging to be taken back to jail. Mrs. Puff also tries to get in jail, knowing she'll be subjected to teaching SpongeBob again otherwise.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Deception", Obi-Wan fakes his death and goes undercover as his supposed killer to infiltrate a plot against the Supreme Chancellor. The first step? Getting arrested and taken to prison to get close to the mastermind of the plot.
  • The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!: Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and Toad get sent to Koopatraz, a blatantly obvious parody of... well, you know. While there, Toad reunites with his grandfather, and the four heroes escape the prison with him.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Gang Busters", Montana Max and his gang steal a slushie machine and Buster gets framed for slushie theft. When Buster is put on trial, Plucky acts as his lawyer, but is so obnoxious, that he ends up getting them both arrested and thrown in juvenile hall. Buster and Plucky later dig their way out of juvenile hall, and meet up with Rocky and Mugsy. After Buster leads them to the Warden, the Warden thanks Buster by giving him a chance to find and arrest the real criminals who framed him.
  • Wacky Races: In "Fast Track to Hackensack", Dick Dastardly sets a trap for the other racers in Hackensack, New Jersey by vandalizing a speed limit sign from 35 miles per hour to 85. This results in the Anthill Mob being arrested by the Sheriff and thrown in his jail. After Ring-A-Ding tries many unsuccessful attempts to bust him and the rest of the Anthill Mob out, Clyde explains to the Sheriff that they're competitors in the Wacky Race. As the Wacky Race is the Sheriff's favorite sport, this convinces him to give them an escort to the finish line, where they win first place. Dastardly is about to win, but the Sheriff arrests him for shooting at him and resisting arrest.
  • The Wacky Races (2017) episode "Smokey and the Racers" had all the racers end up in prison when Dick Dastardly attempted to cheat by having his cousin Sheriff Longarm D. Law arrest the other racers for speeding. Unfortunately for Dastardly, his cousin arrests him as well, forcing him to work with Peter Perfect, Penelope Pitstop, I.Q. Ickley, and the Gruesome Twosome in finding a way to bust out of jail.
  • In "Terrors" of Young Justice (2010), Superboy and Miss Martian go undercover into Belle Reve to ascertain and foil a break out attempt.

Alternative Title(s): Prison Sequences