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Reformed Criminal

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Of course, seeing how the three of them are proud Card Carrying Villains, don't expect this to last. (They are even still wearing their Domino Masks, for Pete's sake!)

"The game ain't in me no more. NONE of it."
Dennis "Cutty" Wise, The Wire

Once upon a time that guy lived on the wrong side of the law. Whether a thief, a highway robber, or other outlaw, he had a Heel–Face Turn and through various circumstances, decided to reform his ways. Or perhaps he was a Justified Criminal and didn't even need to have a Heel–Face Turn, only a chance to be accepted. Now he puts his experience as a former criminal to the service of the law.

Compare Recruiting the Criminal, when the character works for the law while still remaining a criminal, and Boxed Crook, when he's coerced or blackmailed into cooperating with the law. It may even become The Atoner in some cases. Compare and contrast Retired Outlaw, who may never have reformed and may have simply stopped. Falsely Reformed Villain is a subversion, when they pretend to reform but are just using it as a ruse to commit more crimes. If the reformation is on a societal level, then it is a Heel–Face Town.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Levi from Attack on Titan is rumored to be a famous criminal until Erwin recruited him into the military. Supplemental materials confirmed this. He even intended to kill Erwin at one point!
  • Gauche Adlai from Black Clover is reformed in the loosest meaning of the word - given that he is still as vulgar, violent, and unpleasant even after being arrested - and only stays out of prison thanks to his status as a Magic Knight.
  • A side chapter of Fairy Tail reveals Bisca Moulin to be one of these. Said chapter reveals that the person in question had pretended to be part of the eponymous guild while committing crimes, which drew Erza's attention, resulting in her beating some sense into Bisca. Eventually, Bisca joined Fairy Tail and became friends with Erza.
  • Though they weren't particularly hardened criminals, Fate and every member of the Wolkenritter (Except for Rein, who didn't exist at that point in the storyline) of the Lyrical Nanoha series started out as villains who were arrested by the TSAB, sentenced to work for the TSAB for a period of time as their punishment, and then decided to continue working for them full time once their sentence ended.
    • In fact, it emerged in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS that Hayate still sometimes gets flak from being at the heart of the incident, despite it having taken place a decade in the past. She works as hard as she does in a bid to shake off the stigma.
  • Moriarty the Patriot has the Moriarty brothers working as The Lord of Crime, of which Louis eventually sheds the vigilantism and murder to head the MI6. Considering his brothers are in prison by choice and working for the US Government, respectively, they may also be considered reformed.
  • In Pokémon: The Series, the Squirtle Squad started out as a gang of delinquent Pokémon that would perennially wreak havoc in a nearby town. However, when the Squirtle Squad help put out a forest fire, they are hailed as heroes and are officially ordained as the town's firefighters, with the local Officer Jenny supervising them. (The Squad's leader, however, would run off and join Ash's team.)
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, Anteiku employs several reformed criminals that now manage the 20th Ward as peacekeepers and a pseudo-food bank. Among the staff are several delinquents, a hit man, and two gang leaders that all eventually made a Heel–Face Turn and work to atone for their pasts. However, eventually CCG learns about the cafe and organizes an Extermination operation to deal with the high-level targets working there.
  • Kotobuki, of Tsubasa Those With Wings, at the very beginning.
  • Kurama and Hiei of YuYu Hakusho started out as criminals before they each had a Heel–Face Turn.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics has a few of their own:
    • Steeljack from Astro City.
    • Batman: Bruce goes out of his way to try and help criminals get employment to help them reform. Generally the formerly unnamed henchmen and other small time crooks get to keep their new law abiding lives and jobs at Wayne Enterprises or the Wayne Foundation, but named villains, like the Cavalier, usually turn on the company when a new writer comes along and wants to use that villain.
    • Most of The Flash's villains, the Rogues, have reformed over the course of years; only Trickster (before his death) and Pied Piper have remained that way long term.
    • JSA Classified: Johnny Mimic was a small time supervillain back in the day, who made a deal with Alan Scott after being defeated by the Green Lantern and has kept his nose clean for decades since. In his older years he dies to prevent a the corrupt government official threatening him, his wife and Alan from gaining control of an H-Dial.
    • Plastic Man started out as thief/gangster Eel O'Brien. He's reformed, but in some incarnations he's still morally flexible.
    • Red Hood (Jason Todd) kept trying to reform prior to Flashpoint, at one point his little brother Robin (Tim) felt he'd moved past his "Pit Madness" and trusted Jason's intentions enough to help him break out of prison. Jason never had a proper redemption arc and writers kept making him go off the deep end again, by Flashpoint he'd upgraded from anti-villain to straight up villain. Post Flashpoint he's been hovering somewhere near anti-hero, and his past of trying to murder his little brothers because he was pissed at their dad is apparently still cannon.
    • Richard Dragon was a thief wandering Japan before he tried to steal from the man who would become his sensei. After being stopped from taking a historic statue from a Kyoto garden by the Old Master Richard was brought to the dojo and reformed into a straight up, if not terribly active, hero during his years under his sensei's tutelage.
    • Sensation Comics & Wonder Woman (1942): Wonder Woman's one time enemy Paula von Gunther becomes her stalwart ally. It probably helps that Paula was really only helping the Nazis due to their threatening her daughter and she is incredibly grateful to Diana for bringing her to Paradise Island.
    • Most of the Silver Swans, a legacy Wonder Woman villain, reform and return to civilian life after Wonder Woman helps them out.
    • Wonder Woman: Black and Gold: In "Memories of Hator" Di visits a reformed Badra at her job in a museum years after the extraterrestrial princess had been running a ring of thieves using her powers.
  • There are many in the Marvel universe:
    • Scott Lang, who becomes the second Ant-Man, is a former burglar.
    • The Thunderbolts started out as a group of villains only pretending to be superheroes... until they decided they liked being heroes more and became actual heroes.
    • Hawkeye started out as a circus performer-turned-professional criminal.
    • Black Widow first appeared as a KGB spy and Ironman villain before she defected to the USA and The Avengers.
    • The Vision was originally created by Ultron to destroy the Avengers but came to admire them instead and turned on his "father".
    • Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch began their careers as (reluctant) henchmen for Magneto.
    • Magneto himself on several occasions.
    • Magneto's long-time lackey Toad.
    • Rogue of the X-Men used to be on of the teams enemies due to her being raised by Mystique.
    • Emma Frost was once the leader of the Hellfire Society before joining the X-men.
    • Loki has had a fresh start and is trying to turn his life around and reform
    • Kaine, one of Spider-Man's clones, was originally a Flawed Prototype with a terminal fault in his genes who murdered many of the other clones. Since being cured and the death of fellow clone Ben Reilly, he has reformed and taken on Reilly's legacy as Scarlet Spider.
    • Namor the Submariner was originally a villain who hated the surface world and twice tried to invade New York. He then teamed up with the Invaders to help stop the Nazis out of mutual hatred and has been constantly switching between Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain ever since.
    • The Sandman tried to be a good guy for awhile. It didn't take.
  • The Garth Ennis mini-series Pride and Joy is about a reformed criminal trying to leave his past behind him, even though he got away with murder.
  • Dwight McCarthy in Sin City makes frequent reference his wild and dangerous past, but we never get the exact details. All we know is that he could drink and fight with the best of them (According to other characters) and he refers to his urge to resume that life as "the monster." When he is introduced to the series he is making a legal (Although unpleasant) living as photographer for a private detective (Divorces, mostly) and lives a life of strict abstinence, not even smoking, so as not to give "the monster" any chance of coming back.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: The Beagle Boys actually tried to genuinely reform their criminal ways at least once, when they were offered parole in exchange for getting into an honest-job program. The problems only start when one of them begins an Office Romance, except the girl turns out to be a crazy All Girls Want Bad Boys-type who pressures him to help her commit a bank robbery to get out of her boring life.

    Fan Works 
  • Crow used to be a member of a criminal syndicate before his Heel–Face Turn and is now this in The Tainted Grimoire.
  • In Four Deadly Secrets, there's Blake (as per Canon), Miltia and Melanie Malachite, and Yang.
  • Ultra Fast Pony turns into a Cop Show parody for the episode "Stay Tuned". Pinkie Pie fills the role of "a former criminal trying to make up for what I did in the past by joining the force."
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Mister Freeze surrenders quietly after he realizes that his wife, Nora, was miraculously cured of her chronic illness by the Quirk she developed in cryo-sleep. After spending fifteen years in Arkham as a model inmate (even helping to foil the breakout attempts of other supervillains), he leaves a free man and later starts Fries Financial, a successful conglomerate on par with Wayne-Powers, Queen Consolidated, and LexCorp.
  • In Juxtapose, it turns out that Kensei is one, having been raised by Tsuchigumo, a Villain, to commit various criminal acts until he's taken in by the police and subsequently adopted by Detective Tsukauchi.
  • Christian Weston Chandler in Survivor: Kujira-Jima has Ian Rider, a former member of the Los Angeles black gang scene, who grew to despise gangbanging and quit several months prior to the events of the story.
  • The Redemption of Harley Quinn ends with Harley accepting training to become a PTSD psychologist (under a new identity), and Ivy as her domestic partner.
  • The Bridge, both Xenilla and Destroyah eventually become this after an extended stay in Equestria in weaker bodies give them a new lease on life, adamant they got a lot to make up for but are on the path to do that.
  • With This Ring:
    • Paul of universe 16 spends a fair bit of time visiting Belle Reve penitentiary, in hopes of persuading some of the inmates to go straight when they're released. Notable successes include the Terror Twins, who actually help to put down an attempted prison break, then go on to a career in ship-breaking, and Captain Cold, who turns his groundbreaking technology into a PhD paper, and starts seriously considering offers from companies like KordTech and LexCorp (the latter not being Paul's ideal outcome, but with the potential to still be legitimate work).
    • Paul of universe 12 goes further and builds a large company on the basis of recruiting mad scientists who fall into the window of "crazy enough to be brilliant" and "sane enough to hire". With the offer of being taken seriously and paid a generous salary, dozens of former villains, like Cheetah, turn over a new leaf.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Bad Guys (2022), the titular gang is pretending to reform in order to avoid a jail sentence and to get another shot at stealing the coveted Golden Dolphin award, but as the leader Mr. Wolf discovers what being good is like, they gradually reform for real. Governor Diane Foxington is also a former criminal, the legendary thief Crimson Paw, who got sick of the lifestyle and turned herself around for the better.
  • This is the main plot in Despicable Me 2: following the events of the first film, Gru is trying to settle down with his adopted daughters and go straight.
  • The Incredibles: One of the heroes mentioned in the second disc of the DVD is Blazestone, who is noted to have been arrested and jailed for unknown reasons prior to being recruited by the National Supers Agency. She worked with Universal Man as part of her rehabilitation.
  • In Megamind, Megamind becomes a superhero at the end of the movie.
  • Horst, the German sous chef in Ratatouille, is said to have done time, although nobody really knows what he did.
  • Zootopia: While never officially arrested, Nick Wilde is definitely a successful Con Artist and Hustler. The end of the movie shows that he's graduated from the police academy and is now Judy's patrol partner.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 15 Minutes: Milos is a former bank robber turned plumber who says that the work is easy and enjoyable. His old partners in crime take it poorly when he offers to help them get jobs after having spent all of the money from their last job together.
  • A Slight Case of Murder: Remy Marco is a bootlegger who is happy to start a legitimate brewery and leave the rackets behind. His goons also go straight to work as his servants and salespeople. Unfortunately, the beer from Marco's brewery tastes terrible, and he's on the verge of bankruptcy for most of the film.
  • Gan Xing from Red Cliff (based on Gan Ning from Romance of the Three Kingdoms) started out as a pirate, but he and his men ended up joining the regular army.
  • In the Spaghetti Western They Call Me Trinity Trinity's brother, who is/was a criminial, is working as the sheriff of the town.
  • Carlito of Carlito's Way. The movie begins with getting out from a long, long prison sentence only due to his lawyer finding out that the prosecutor used illegally obtained evidence to convict him, and he is absolutely determined to never go back to prison. The only thing Carlito wants in life is to save up enough money to move somewhere tropical, open an easy little business, and live out his days in peace. Circumstances, his past, and shady people he's connected to all make that much harder than he initially anticipates.
  • Axel Foley from Beverly Hills Cop, who regularly notes that he "wasn't always a cop".
  • Robert Ford from I Shot Jesse James. He betrays Jesse James in order to be pardoned and marry his girlfriend.
  • It is mentioned several times in Johnny Reno that U.S. Marshal Johnny Reno used to be an outlaw and gunfighter. According to Nona, he was released from prison to clean up a lawless town. In doing so, he got a taste for being a lawman, and is now a By-the-Book Cop.
  • Killer Diller (2004) follows a blues band consisting mostly of the inhabitants of a halfway house.
  • In Backstreet Dreams, Dean quits working as an Evil Debt Collector, despite his partner Manny's efforts to talk him out of it, so he can be a better father to his autistic son. He gets an unpleasant and demeaning but honest job that earns him some of the first clean money of his life.
  • In the Fade: Nuri was imprisoned for drug dealing, and even met Katja this way in college, by selling her some cannabis. However, after he serves four years in prison, his first move is to get into legitimate businesses after marrying Katja. It's indicated his income was more than officially declared though, possibly subverting it.
  • In Shotgun (1955), Deputy Marshal Clay Hardin used to be an outlaw until being reformed by U.S. Marshal Mark Fletcher and becoming his deputy. When Fletcher is murdered, Hardin takes it very personally.
  • In Ant-Man and the Wasp, Scott Lang and his prison buddies, Luis, Kurt and Dave, start a business called "X-Con Security Consultants," because, after all, they know both sides of the business.
  • Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead: Jimmy and the men who he's recruited all went straight until money dragged all of them back in. This ends very badly for everyone.

  • The sidekicks of Judge Dee tend to be reformed highway robbers (in Ma Joong's case, a former bodyguard to a corrupt judge who punched out his boss for fleecing a widow, and for Tsiao Tai an officer who was sold out to the enemy by his general) and con men (Tao Gan). Knowing the criminal underworld from the inside makes them quite useful to the magistrate's investigations.
  • In The Years of Rice and Salt, Kheim, the admiral of the Ming fleet that discovers America, is a former pirate.
  • In the Discworld novels Going Postal, Making Money, and Raising Steam the main character is former con-artist Moist Lipwig. In Going Postal, he's a Boxed Crook who still harbors dreams of escape, but by the end he has become this trope. He still wants to hide from his past since his swindling past made him more than a few enemies.
  • In one or two of the Monsieur Lecoq books by Emile Gaboriau, the great detective Lecoq (to some degree based on Vidocq) is said to be an ex-criminal.
  • In the 1632 universe, the Grantville Gazette short stories written about the downtime NCIS (the stories are explicit homages to the TV show of the same name) have more than a few reformed criminals in the service, including the main male protagonist.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, Blackstar. After doing things against the warrior code (stealing kits from another Clan, killing other cats needlessly), he lived as a rogue for a while, but eventually rejoined the Clan, became its leader, and hasn't done anything like that since.
  • In the Resident Evil novelizations by S.D. Perry, Jill Valentine is said to have been a thief, following on the footsteps of her father Dick Valentine, but eventually gave up and joined the S.T.A.R.S. police unit (which incidentally explains her mastery of lockpicks).
  • Dresden Files
    • Molly Carpenter is this. Breaking the Laws of Magic is a biiiig no-no.
    • Harry himself is considered this by most of the Wizard population. (He was innocent; DuMorne shot first.) Now he's the regional commander of the Wardens. Go figure.
      • In both those examples, being taken under the wing of a more senior wizard can reduce the sentence from immediate execution to one-chance probation before the same. For both the accused and the wizard who takes them in. The thought is, if they can invoke this trope, both of them are eventually free of the probation, but if not, Black Magic (which actually does corrupt) must be stifled.
    • Sanya used to be the host of a Denarian. Now he's a Knight of the Cross. In fact, it's the job of the Knights to invoke this for the Denarians' hosts.
    • Lash, the shadow of a Fallen Angel when she performs a Heroic Sacrifice and Redemption Equals Death. Doubles as a Tear Jerker.
    • Bob, actually. But this has more to do with who his owner is at any time. When Harry picked him up, he got modeled after Harry's teenage self. Before? Warden Du Morne. Before him? Freaking arch-necromancer Heinrich Kemmler.
    • Thomas has shades of this, by trying to not hurt humans with his Demon.
  • In Codex Alera, Fade is this. Actually, he's Araris Valerian guarding Tavi and Isana. Tavi later causes this in Fidelias Ex Cursori.
  • In the Sword of Truth, Richard causes this in just about everyone he meets. The Sisters of the Light, Nicci, the Mord-Sith, D'Hara in general, the people of Altur'Rang, the list goes on and on. The D'Haran commanders lampshade this.
    • Denna, oh so much.
  • John Wesley Weasel from The Book of the Dun Cow was once a selfish rogue and egg thief, but a beating from Chautecleer induced a Heel–Face Turn, and he spends the entirety of the book as a loyal ally to the good guys.
  • In Father Brown stories Flambeau from the greatest thief eventually turns into a detective, though not for very long, because soon he settles down as a family man.
  • In The Witchlands, it eventually turns out that Cam/Camilla used to be a gang member before joining the Navy to escape a life of crime.
  • In Worm, the villain Madcap is allowed to join the Protectorate as hero Assault. Judging from the context, this might even be a standard deal in the universe.
    • Later, Skitter attempts a similar tactic, becoming the hero Weaver.
  • City of Bones by Martha Wells: Khat is still morally ambiguous and shady in the eyes of the law (thanks, poverty and racism!), but he's come a long way from his former ways as a housebreaker and fence for a small-time crime lord.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dennis Wise in The Wire. A former compatriot of Avon Barksdale, he is nicknamed "Cutty" for his long spell in the eponymous Baltimore prison. Upon his release, he reservedly tries to get back into "the game", but finds the criminal culture he has returned to is now too brutal to be comfortable with. He eventually resolves to go straight and sets up a boxing gym for boys (though he does have to ask Avon for the cash to do so).
  • Kaz, about a petty thief who became a lawyer while serving a prison sentence.
  • In White Collar, Neal Caffrey, the show's main character, was formerly a con artist before he became a consultant for the FBI in order to keep out of prison. However, if presented with a big enough temptation, he will slip back into his criminal ways because he loves the trill too much. It becomes a constant question on the show if Neal can ever fully reform or if he and his supporters are only fooling themselves.
  • In Power Rangers S.P.D., Jack and Z were Just Like Robin Hood thieves until the Space Police caught them, and the commander offered them the chance to serve as policemen (and Power Rangers) as an alternate to a prison term. Z takes to it immediately; Jack is more reserved but stays legit even after leaving the force.
  • In Power Rangers Mystic Force the Empress of All Good Magic, the Mystic Mother, started her existence as an evil witch before being exposed to pure goodness and being reformed. Her original name: Rita Repulsa, the Big Bad of the first few seasons.
  • Neelix of Star Trek: Voyager used to be a smuggler. This gets him into some trouble when he meets his old partner, but he's able to fix it by setting a trap for the criminals they got entangled with.
  • On Barney Miller Harris says that he used to be a thief when he was a kid, but he stole books.
  • On The Unusuals Cole was a hardened criminal in Texas, but he found religion and moved to New York to become a cop.
  • The Mentalist: Cho was in a street gang in his youth, which gives him insight into criminals' pshychology now that he's a cop.
  • Kate Austen on Lost. She was a fugitive being taken back to the U.S. by a Marshal, but became a good guy immediately after the crash.
  • Cade Foster in First Wave used to be a thief. After meeting his wife, he went legit and started working as a security consultant, using his criminal knowledge to help companies plug holes in their security. In one episode, he runs into his old crew, and his former partner/girlfriend resents him leaving them for "that slut".
  • Alfredo Llamosa in Elementary. He became a pro at boosting cars as a kid and picked up a drug habit out of boredom. After getting clean, he went straight and now uses his experience to make a living by testing new car anti-theft systems. In fact, this activity convinces Sherlock to let Alfredo become his sobriety sponsor (what with Sherlock being incapable of saying no to a challenging puzzle and all).
  • At the end of The Red Green Show, Mike Hamar gives up his life of crime once and for all and becomes a police officer. He virtually eliminates crime in Possum Lake, due to himself being the only major criminal in area.
  • Deconstructed in Queen Sugar. Deconstructed. Ralph Angel is not keen on returning to a life of crime, but circumstances and his own pride make it hard for him to stay out of trouble. He's roped into stealing from his job by his co-worker because the boss withheld his pay. He couldn't just get another job because not many places are willing to hire an ex-con. When he tries to back out, the co-worker threatens him because He Knows Too Much.
  • Penn & Teller: Fool Us: The show is about magicians who test their skills to try and fool Penn and Teller. Magician Adrian Sinclair recounts before his show he is a former conman. He was on the run and hid in Las Vegas where he had a chance encounter with Penn himself. While playing his character before Penn, Penn never saw it was a con and was genuinely kind to Adrian. After that, Adrian had a Heel Realization and turns himself in. He served five years in jail and is now a professional magician.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Crimestrikers has a couple of examples.
    • As a teenager, G.T. Overley was so fascinated with cars that she stole several of them—"not to keep, just to drive!" The law didn't see the distinction, and after a stay in juvie she did a Heel–Face Turn and started using her skills as a police mechanic and driver. Eventually, she became the Crimestrikers' Badass Driver.
    • Beatrix "Trix" Condello was a Con Artist and industrial spy (albeit of the Just Like Robin Hood/Lovable Rogue variety) who underwent a Heroic BSoD when the Crimestrikers informed her that she'd unwittingly helped Emperor Rasavanto create a Doomsday Device. She risked her life to destroy the weapon, then accepted an offer to join the team and use her skills for good.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Many Space Marine Chapters recruit among the worst criminals the Imperium's hive worlds have to offer, seeing psychopathy as an added bonus. It helps that candidates undergo decades of harsh training, indoctrination, and possibly mind-wipes before actually joining the Chapter.
    • Similarly, the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits that are Inquisitorial retinues often includes former criminals (or current criminals kept on a short leash by their Inquisitor for their contacts or talents).

    Video Games 
  • Claudio's school of Noble Arte in Cruz Brothers is composed of boxers who used to be delinquent and criminals who are reformed by learning boxing. For example, Faust used to be a con man who charms elderly women to steal their purses afterward.
  • In Darkest Dungeon, the Highwayman hero is revealed in his backstory to have been a bandit who robbed travelers and coaches for money... until one day during a robbery a stray shot from his pistol killed a woman and her child. He was so horrified and distraught by this that he looked for his redemption by traveling to the estate to fight the evils within. His final line of dialogue if he is chosen to be hit by the Heart of Darkness' "Come Unto Your Maker" attack is a calm acceptance of his fate.
    No way out. Hmph. Let's do this.
  • In Growing Up, Jake hates being told on for his behavior, but you have to call him out for his criminal activity and convince him that there's a better way to fight crime in order to convince him to give up the gangster life.
  • Vi, from League of Legends, was a life-long criminal in Piltover who went from stealing to survive, to being a member of a guild of thieves, to beating up thieves to steal their loot. Caitlyn, Piltover's sheriff, recruited Vi into the police force as a means to make up for her crimes, giving her the chance to continue pounding ne'er-do-wells without fear of reprisal.
  • When she is introduced in Mass Effect 2, Jack is an apathetic criminal with a rap sheet that could span the distance between two mass relays. Should she survive into Mass Effect 3, however, she will turn her life around and become a biotic instructor at Grissom Academy, where she is adored by her pupils for her badass nature. She even becomes less of a Lady Swears-a-Lot!
  • In Nancy Drew: The Haunted Carousel, Harlan did time for armed robbery before he was hired by the park. He keeps his past secret, something which makes him look even more suspicious...but he's not the saboteur.
  • "Jesse McCree" from Overwatch used to run with the notorious Deadlock Gang until he was approached by Gabriel Reyes and given a chance to avoid prison by joining Blackwatch, Overwatch's black-ops division. Even after Overwatch is disbanded, he continues to fight the good fight as a vigilante. Eventually, to shed his past for good, he stopped using his criminal alias to go by Cole Cassidy, his real name (which was written in response to his namesake being one of the people targeted by a high-profile sexual harassment suit against Activision-Blizzard).
  • At the end of the third Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game, former Gentleman Thief Ron DeLite, aka Mask DeMasque says that he's starting a security company to help businesses defend themselves against thieves. And also that he's going to sell the security plans to crooks. At least he's not stealing anymore?
  • Downplayed Trope in Prison Architect. Whenever an inmate is released, whether it's at the end of their sentence or an early release through on parole, the game checks if they reoffend. Successfully rehabilitated prisoners find gainful employment and you the player get a bonus cash reward and a small blurb relating to where they found such employment in the "released prisoners" menu. Some reform programs also invite some reformed criminals to give talks and meetings that help inmates to be rehabilitated... And said reformed criminals are usually inmates you helped rehabilitate. Beyond the fuzzy feelings, cash rewards they bring the player and further appearances they make in reform programs, reformed inmates do not play a major part in the game.
  • In Rebel Inc., one of the potential governors is the Smuggler, a former Arms Dealer who is using their skills in the underworld to try to stabilize a war-torn region. The Smuggler gains an advantage when your Corruption rating is high, earning more money off of backroom deals, but because he's a former criminal everyone is suspicious of him and thus he suffers drawbacks if Corruption gets too high. He can also cut corners with the national army to make money, but this will weaken their effectiveness, and he can even turn his army into a mercenary company to make money off of every unit in the field.
  • After the gang left him in Red Dead Redemption, John Marston gives up the criminal life and chooses to spend time with his family and work on his ranch. Unfortunately, Edgar Ross doesn't see it that way.
  • In The Sexy Brutale, Lucas's attempt at insurance fraud inadvertently killed his friends and pregnant wife. He's spent the last twenty years thinking of nothing else.
  • Skylanders: In Skylanders: SWAP Force, one of the people you need help from in your quest is Baron Sharpfin of Motleyville, who is rumored to be the wealthiest creature in the Cloudbreak Islands through his dealings. He still isn't some dangerous criminal, but after helping him get another villain out of his town, he agrees to help the Skylanders out, though mostly only for the rewards and to a degree. After a while however, he admits that while the deal he made may have gone over the limit, he still sticks around and helps the heroes save the day. And after that, he seems to have had a real change of heart, as he returns in Skylanders: SuperChargers, and is much nicer there.
  • In the Web Game Sleuth, one of the preset backgrounds you can choose for your Private Detective is a former burglar who became The Atoner and now catches murderers and other criminals for a living.
  • Before his appearance in the StarCraft games, James Raynor used to be a bandit, until he nearly got caught (his partner took all the blame, and was sentenced to prison), then he settled down and became a sheriff of Mar Sara colony.
  • Street Fighter:
    • Sagat was in the first SF tournament merely to test his skills against the best fighters in the world. He might have been a ruthless fighter, but he wasn't an evil one. His scarring at Ryu's hands instilled hatred in him and motivated him to join Shadaloo, but he realized that Shadaloo was not the right way, and his rivalry with Ryu has cooled down with time. Now he's just a fighter who will not settle with being in second place, and despite their rivalry, he and Ryu are friends now, according to his ending in Super Street Fighter IV.
    • In the Street Fighter Alpha series, it was revealed that Cody Travers, the hero of the original Final Fight, had become a criminal, finding himself in prison after picking one too many fights after saving Metro City and becoming disillusioned. By Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, however, he not only turned his life around, but became the new mayor of Metro City!
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: The Slingshot DLC centers around Shaojie Zhang, a high-rank Triad agent who, when his boss ends up with a piece of equipment related to the aliens and plans to sell it to whoever offers the most for it regardless of intention, balks at the implications of their involvement, contacts the authorities, who in turn send word to XCOM, and sneaks out with the device to meet with XCOM's escort squad. Once he's out, Zhang is no longer a person of interest, but he willingly joins XCOM as a Lieutenant-rank Heavy with very good stats.
    Zhang: I'm alive... but the life I had is gone now. Funny, that my life should take such an unexpected path. Turning my back on old friends, to defeat a common enemy.

    Web Comics 
  • Captain Hawkins and her crew claim to be running a legal merchant trading vessel rather than being Sky Pirates in Girl Genius; all evidence points to their being something closer to recovering pirates who function a lot like privateers.
  • In Jupiter-Men, Arrio used to run in an unspecified gang when he was younger. He was apparently threatening enough that his teacher filed a restraining order against him. While he's gone completely straight, Arrio makes comments alluding to his checkered past, such as his history of being in car chases and "only" giving Rick a black eye when they fight. But Arrio hasn't lost all of his old habits, as he cheerfully steals Nathan's car when given the chance.
  • Serena Linnen from Tower of God used to be a thief until her group got her annihilated by a Ranker. Full of despair, she sought to improve herself and thus landed in the Inner Tower.

    Web Original 
  • Dino Attack RPG has this role filled by Silencia Venemosa, previously a ruthless bounty hunter before she began trying to redeem herself and became involved with the Dino Attack Team. Montoya could also be considered an example due to his background as a small-time criminal, though he never actually joined the team.
  • Fire Emblem on Forums has a few examples:
    • Liberation Of Izzarra: Roux, Bertholt's bodyguard, is this, having reformed after Bertholt successfully healed her mother when she ransomed him to try to get money to do the same thing. However, she is very much Reformed, but Not Tamed.
    • Whereabouts of Drink and Coin: Lastelle, L of the Warriors, used to be a petty thief for the thrill before finding gainful employment as a Warrior when the Boss noticed her skills.
  • No Boys Dorm has this in the main character Lara No, who moved away from Toronto to escape her criminal past but returns when her apartment burns down, and her best friend Alba Armada. Additionally, Cyrus, a member of the Shadow Order, seems to be reconsidering his job choice.
  • Blake Belladonna from RWBY was an operative of the White Fang in the backstory; she defected from the group in her introductory trailer upon becoming disillusioned about its ways and soon enrolled in the Beacon Academy to become a huntress.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10/Ben 10: Alien Force: Kevin Levin, once a troubled (but still deadly) kid turned arms dealer, is convinced as a teenager to fight for good after a Plumber (meaning a member of the secret alien police) saves his life at the cost of his own.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures:
    • Tohru used to be a part of the Dark Hand before his Heel–Face Turn during the first season finale.
    • Viper, the cat burglar that Jackie and Jade encounter during their search for the snake talisman, turns up as an ally in season 2, having reformed her criminal ways and now working as a security consultant.
    • The Dark Hand Enforcers, Finn, Ratso, and Chow, decided to go straight in the Season 4 episode, "The Good Guys." It didn't stick, though in several appearances afterwards the three were seen trying to reform themselves, sometimes as part of a scheme, though sometimes with genuine aspirations to leave a life of crime behind.
  • Rubberband Man began as an adversary of Static in Static Shock, but he eventually turned himself in to the authorities. When he was released from prison he became an ally to Static.
  • Parodied in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Hall Monitor", where Hall Monitor SpongeBob tries arresting Patrick for the sole offense of littering ice cream. When he hears of a maniac on the loose in Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob decides he needs the help of a criminal, and convinces Patrick to use his "criminal knowledge" to aid the law... by getting more ice cream.
  • Terry in Batman Beyond was, by his own admission, a real bad kid and even ended up in Juvie for a while before he became the new Batman. The tricks he didn't get from Bruce he picked up in the course of his bad behaviour. Being Batman, as he explains in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is his way of trying to undo the damage he did.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Princess Celestia stresses she wants Discord reformed of his own free will so he will become this and be willing to use his God-Tier powers for good rather than just being a dick. Other than one major snag, it ultimately works.
    • Starlight Glimmer in season five also follows this route.
    • In fact, many of the show's villains are reformed after a Heel–Face Turn and being Easily Forgiven. Nightmare Moon, aka Luna, Sunset Shimmer from The Equestria Girls spinoff, the Changeling race, save for a Queen Chrysalis. Not surprising, as it's a major theme of the show.
  • Suyin Beifong of The Legend of Korra is a former Getaway Driver and pirate. 30-odd years of Character Development later, she's a staunch ally of the heroes and the leader/founder of Zaofu.
  • Fillmore!:
    • Both main protagonists Cornelius Fillmore and Ingrid Third started their stints on the Safety Patrol from a delinquent past. Fillmore in particular was a Boxed Crook, given the choice between detention for the rest of middle school for boosting a chalk shipment or helping Officer Wayne Liggett with a case he was working on.
    • Fillmore's former partner in crime, Penny Madrid, had also turned her life around by the time she and Fillmore meet again, now working for Winston Cotter, the son of a Canadian ambassador, and helping him organize charity events. In contrast to Fillmore, she had strayed and took part in her boss' counterfeit baseball card ring.
    • Linus Santiago used to be a petty thief and was known for disrupting school events and being a thorn in Principal Folsom's side ever since his start at school. After walking out of detention and discovering street magic, he had changed his ways.

    Real Life 
  • A famous Real Life example is Vidocq, a French thief who ended up chief of police, and later became the first private detective ever.
  • Frank Abagnale Jr, both in real life and in the film Catch Me If You Can, went from passing millions of dollars worth of fraudulent checks to working as a fraud and security consultant for the FBI. Except none of that was true: further investigation showed that he didn't steal anywhere near the amount that he claimed to, and he never worked for the FBI.
  • Several hackers (convicted and otherwise) have found gainful employment in the computer security field.
  • One former Canadian marijuana smuggler advertised the fact that he'd started up and ran a successful smuggling business before eventually being caught as qualification for why legitimate companies should consider hiring him due to his demonstrated organizational and management skills. It worked, thus neatly avoiding the trap that many former criminals face (a criminal record prevents you from getting a legitimate job).
  • Plenty of pirates fall under this trope.
    • Zhou Tai, and Gan Ning who are featured in Dynasty Warriors. Both were former pirates before they joined Wu. Although Gan Ning was still a killer deep down.
  • French writer and director José Giovanni was part of a collaborationist French fascist party during the Occupation of France. He took part in the crimes of a gang within that party that killed some Jewish people and embezzled their money. He served 11 years in prison from 1945 to 1956, then was pardoned and started a career in writing. He incidentally wrote crime novels, some of which got famously adapted on film (such as La Scoumoune, which he directed himself).
  • Danny Trejo used to be a criminal when he was younger. Nowadays, he's an actor who said that him playing bad guys is meant to show that Being Evil Sucks, and that he's apparently quite nice despite his background.
  • Robert Piché, a Canadian private pilot, was imprisoned for sixteen months for smuggling marijuana into the US from Jamaica. Despite his criminal record, he was hired by the Canadian airline Air Transat - which turned out to be a good thing for 305 passengers and crew when he skilfully glided an Airbus A330 that ran out of fuel on a transatlantic flight to a safe landing in the Azores.
  • Larry Lawton was once the most notorious jewel thief in the United States until he was finally busted. After doing his time, he became an author and motivational speaker dedicated to helping troubled teens steer clear of the life of crime. He's even been made an honorary police officer! He has his own YouTube channel where he shares stories about his former life of crime and reviews heists in fiction.
  • Michael Franzese was a former captain of the Colombo crime family and lived through many of the events covered in Scorsese films; he knew the real Henry Hill and even saved his life on several occasions. Many of the mobsters arrested in Donnie Brasco were his personal acquaintances (in fact, Donnie was originally going to target Michael's family before switching to the Bonannos). The Jimmy Hoffa incident happened during his time and he knows for sure what truly happened, but has declined to divulge any detail. Much like Larry Lawton above, Michael is now a motivational speaker and has his own YouTube channel, which he uses to talk about the Mafia life and reviews mob movies. He has also answered AMAs on Reddit here and here.
  • Modern-day stylite Maxime Qavtaradze became a monk in 1993 after a stint in prison, saying "When I was young I drank, sold drugs, everything". Until 2015, he lived alone on top of Katskhi pillar, coming down only twice a week.
  • Huey Morgan of Fun Lovin Criminals was involved in a number of crimes in his youth living in New York, which resulted in him being given the choice of joining the marines (a branch stationed in Paris) or going to prison (as noted in the song "The Grave And The Constant"). He chose the former, and eventually pursued a career in music, for which he had particular success in the UK (to which he later moved). He's now considered something of a national treasure due to working as a presenter on radio and tv for years.
  • Judge Greg Mathis of Judge Mathis used to be a delinquent and a teenage hoodlum, before he turned his life around and became a judge.
    "Troubled kids? I was one. Gangs? Jail? I was there. Second chances? I got one. I went to law school, became a lawyer, and then a judge. Now I get to give second chances. It's time for hard decisions and tough love. Justice that makes a difference; that's what I'm about!"
  • An episode of Tiger King features Mario Tabraue, the former kingpin of a multimillion dollar drug empire whose exploits are said to have inspired parts of the movie Scarface (1983). After being arrested and serving his time in prison, he was paroled for good behavior and now lives quietly with a private zoo of exotic animals, by all accounts a reformed character. Indeed, compared to the antics of the other zoo owners in Tiger King, he comes across as practically the Only Sane Man.