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. Will sometimes overlap with a Courtroom Episode.
- 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.
- In the Outlaw Star episode "Gravity Jailbreak", Gene Starwind is forced to infiltrate a Penal Colony planet to find a contact who will give him the coordinates of the Galactic Leyline. To further complicate things, the mission takes place in a Deadly Environment Prison - it's a heavy-gravity planet and sooner or later the gravity's strain makes the prisoners' hearts give out.
- 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.
- 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.
- Calvin & 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.
- Alien³ opens with Ellen Ripley crash-landing onto Fiorina "Fury" 161, a backwater prison planet of Weyland-Yutani's, in a "Type 337 Emergency Escape Vehicle", and from there, Ripley and the local inmates spend the whole rest of the film battling a lone Xenomorph runner in the aformementioned planet's "Class C Correctional Work Unit."
- 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.
- Episode 5 of Dragon Ball Z Abridged emphasizes Vegeta and Nappa being captured on Arlia. Nappa tells Vegeta to "don't drop the soap".
Vegeta: I swear to God, Nappa, I will shiv you.
- The Hobo Bros' Hobo Theatre series has "The Great Luigi Escape", in which Luigi breaks out of prison.
- The Time... Guys: Doc Chronos, Timmy and Caveman have been arrested by Roman senators (almost), King Confucius of France, and Alexander the Great.