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"I wouldn't say I was "locked up." The sunlight doesn't reach down here. I get food and everything else brought right to me. I was just comfortable, that's all. [grins] I mean, I can destroy anything I want. You couldn't lock me up if you tried to."

In Tropeland, people tend to get captured quite often. Therefore, when your favourite character is slapped in irons and thrown into the brig, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Stuff like this happens all the time, and you can be assured he'll be free again by the next commercial...

Wait, what's going on? Why's he just sitting there doing absolutely nothing?

In many characters' lives there might come a moment when leaving a prison would be against everything they stand for. After all, if they can't obey the law, how could they demand it from anyone else? Besides, they didn't do it, so there's nothing to worry about.

Other characters stick around just because they're better off behind bars. There they are safe from the evils (or goods, as it may be) of the world, possibly lulling their enemies into a false sense of security. Alternatively, they're there just because this week's Plot Coupon is there as well, and the easiest way in happened to be through the front gate.

Often lampshaded with the characters demonstrating just how easy breaking out would be. They might also be forced to insist to be let to stay, if they are in danger of getting freed prematurely, or to defy an attempt to trick them into escaping against their own best interests. If they're waiting to get legally released, they may just escape as the order comes, to show that they can.

A practice of the Slave to PR. Usually takes place in a Cardboard Prison or a Luxury Prison Suite. If the character was arrested to foil some Evil Plan when getting arrested was their true goal, then it's a form of Xanatos Gambit. When capital punishment is involved, it's Forgiveness Requires Death. When they invoke the aid of another character, it often overlaps with No Matter How Much I Beg or Kind Restraints. A character who normally does this may break out when he's the Protector Behind Bars. Contrast Never Going Back to Prison. Compare Captured on Purpose, where a character lets themselves be captured as part of a plan and can't necessarily escape easily. See also Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All, for when a character is barely hindered by such a place. See also Play-Along Prisoner, Keeping the Handicap.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • AKB0048: Nagisa's father does this initially when Nagisa shows up to break him out of prison. Her father is a government official on a planet in which entertainment is banned, and was subsequently thrown in jail when Nagisa joined a high-profile entertainment group.
  • Light in Death Note, as part of his Clear My Name Memory Gambit.
  • In the first episode of Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro initially makes no effort to escape from jail, even passing up a chance to grab the keys. When he hears that Zeed kills women and children, he bends open the bars to his cell to kick some butt-ugly ass.
  • The third part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure starts with Jotaro refusing to leave his jail cell, even after policemen tell him that he is free to go. He claims that he is haunted by an evil spirit and is thus better off behind bars where he can't harm anyone (except for the other inmates, who quickly become terrified of him). He agrees to leave only after Joseph explains that the "evil spirit" was actually just a manifestation of his own powers.
  • Knight Hunters: In the last episode of Weiß Kreuz Glühen, Ken is shown to be in prison — which, we discover, is apparently by his own choice, and it's implied that he can get back out whenever he wants but is simply using it as a form of self-imposed penance and a chance to think.
  • Subverted in Monster when Tenma gives a false confession just to be able to escape during a transfer to another prison. (But he would easily have gone along with being locked up for a crime he didn't commit if no one on the outside was imperiled.)
  • Naruto:
    • One filler arc featured Fujin and Raijin, twin prisoners who are strong enough to bend the bars of the cell and leave at any time, but are content enough to stay there as long as they have food.
    • Tobi makes a failed attempt at a kidnapping, is bound by Yamato's Wood style, and takes the opportunity to gives some exposition before teleporting away like he could have at any point.
  • Puri-Puri-Prisoner in One-Punch Man has imprisoned himself because he's afraid he'll assault attractive young men. There's no indication he's ever actually done so, but for whatever reason he thinks he would. Whenever he needs to his job as a superhero, he breaks out of prison, then breaks back in after he's done.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, Ban was arrested and jailed for years, starved and kept in restraints (as well as impaled in several places). As soon as he hears news that his old friend Meliodas is still alive, he casually breaks his restraints and kicks the cell door down, then pulls the metal spikes out of his body, as his Healing Factor fixes the damage.
  • In Soul Eater the villain Medusa lets herself get captured by the good guys for absolutely no reason other than to taunt them by forcing them to make a deal involving her safe release in exchange for information. During the negotiation she asks them to remove her bindings, and when its pointed out that she could've done so herself at any time responds with "There's no meaning to it if I do it myself."
    • In the manga however, this is to gain the DWMA's trust so that they allow her to take command of the students during the raid on Arachnaphobia. She lies and tells the kids that her purpose for this is that Arachne has taken Crona. Her REAL purpose is to get her sister Arachne out of the way and take her body. Medusa later reveals to Maka that she was using them the entire time and that Crona has gone too far off the deep end to go back Maka and co. Most definitely a Manipulative Bitch.
    • When Kid is visiting the Witch world he initially humors them by pretending to be restrained by the ropes they tied him up with, but eventually points out he could break them and kill everyone in the room. He then breaks the ropes, but only so he could ask for help in the Pose of Supplication.
  • In the first episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Kamina is thrown in the village lockup and his wrists tied above his head after trying to break out. He chills in the jail for a while until Simon shows up and says he found something interesting. At that point he casually snaps his bonds and walks out.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix:
    • In Asterix and the Banquet, the heroes let themselves be captured, but as the Romans attempt to wrap them in chains, they keep moving and breaking them because of the magic potion, to the Roman smith's great distress.
    • In Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, they are imprisoned and break out of their cell during the night to search the palace above, only to return once they don't find what they're looking for.
  • Superman does this a lot, because he's the Superman.
  • The Amerimanga Gold Digger has Crush, a former superheroine who was blackmailed into serving a supervillain; she accepted her prison sentence and refuses to seek parole, despite being a model prisoner who helps keep her prison in order. She's trying to repent for "going native" and killing a petty criminal who was actually an undercover policeman.
    • Later the main character Gina Diggers joined her temporarily for trying to steal a device from one of her unscrupulous rivals in order to save her lost sister, when the authorities, include Gina's pops, were already there to pick it up legitimately from said rival
  • One of the first superhuman villains Spider-Man fought (established via Retcon in Untold Tales of Spider-Man) was David Lowell, called Sundown by the superhuman community. A Freak Lab Accident granted him powers on the cosmic scale, including super-strength (potentially rivalling the Hulk's), flight, durability, energy projection, instant healing abilities, the ability to grow to giant size (better than Hank Pym) and teleportation. But gaining these powers also sent him into a pain-induced rage that threatened to level New York. When Spidey showed up, nothing the hero could do could so much as scratch him. Then The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and various other New York heroes showed up to help. Nothing they could muster could so much as scratch him! ("He even stood up to Thor!" Peter relates to Mary Jane in a present-day story. "To Thor! Can you imagine?") Eventually, a young girl who had admired him pleaded with him to stop, and in his rage, he turned an energy blast on her, only stopping when he saw who it was. Who he had just injured. A later story details that he pled guilty, and while breaking out of jail for him would have been easier than most other villains who had, he would not, staying out of guilt until he was paroled, ten years later, still hating himself. (Ironically, Spidey seemed far more willing to forgive than he was to forgive himself; while he redeemed himself, he scoffed at the idea of using his powers heroically, feeling New York wouldn't accept an ex-con hero.)
  • In one of the Captain America novels, Cap is kidnapped by a militia group to be put on "trial" for not doing enough to help "real Americans". Cap can and does break out of jail, but he does it secretly to pass along information to other superheroes and law enforcement. He then breaks back in, with the militia none the wiser. This ensures they stay focused on his trial and keep all the best militia members guarding him, so only the B-squad is available to carry out the actual nefarious plan, which is thus thwarted by Cap's partner the Falcon.
  • A lengthy plot in New Warriors involved Marvel Boy accidentally killing his abusive father with his powers, and being found guilty of manslaughter. When the rest of the Warriors show up to break him out of prison, he refuses to go— he did the crime, he'll do the time.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: When Eviless tries to start a prison break on Reformation Island only seven prisoners join her with the rest electing to remain. When Eviless' newly formed Villainy Inc. starts captures Mala and the other Amazon guards the rest of the prisoners break out specifically to save them, and are more than willing to return to their sentences once the villains are defeated, but Hippolyte says they have poven themselves reformed and frees them.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Flash Sentry Chronicles, when Shade is captured and thrown into prison in The Forgotten Darkness, he reveals that he has a way to escape. But he says that because a shadow is coming to consume the world, he’s going to remain in prison for now, to stay out of its way.
  • Played darkly in Murderer's Row. After being released from prison, Miller finds that an ex-con with a crippled hand can't make it on the outside, and he thus commits a crime so he can get himself sent back to prison, where he was a powerful gang leader.
  • The Secret Return of Alex Mack: Victor Cready does not have a nice history, but after being given nasty GC-161 superpowers that he can't turn off, all he really wants is a steady supply of GC-161 antidote. When he's broken out of prison, he takes the first chance to contact the police and report himself so he can get back on antidote again, and is a model prisoner. His good behaviour gets him a second chance; the SRI uses an experimental technique to stabilise his powers, letting him work with them.
  • In the Discworld fic Gap Year Adventures, Rivka ben-Divorah ends up in a cell after a little misunderstanding at Customs concerning Klatchian bhong resin found in her luggage. She shrugs, resignedly, ensures she is comfortable, and waits for her influential best friend to get her released.

    Films — Animated 
  • At the start of The Steam Engines of Oz, Victoria has keys not only to her dungeon cell, but the other cells and the main doors of the dungeon. She lets herself out each morning to go work, and locks herself back up at night. It never occurs to her to escape because she does not consider herself a prisoner: instead believing that being kept in the dungeons is her part in the Tin Man's grand design.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick allows bounty hunter Toombs and his goons to capture him and take him to the prison planet of Crematoria where he has unfinished business. It is unclear whether the entire Crematoria plot is actually a Gambit Roulette of Riddick's...
  • Confidence trickster Cool Hand Luke appears to have given up rebellion and dissent and to have been completely broken by the system. Then when the rather dim guards relax their attention, he picks exactly the right miment to escape.
  • In Hancock, when he turns himself in to improve his public relations he is basically kept there on the honor system. This is demonstrated at one point when he jumps over the fence to retrieve a basketball and then goes right back in.
  • Another Superman example: promo material for Man of Steel shows our hero being handcuffed, detained and calmly taking questions from Lois Lane in a room with a two-way mirror. During that scene in the movie, Kal gets up to address the General who is standing behind the two-way mirror, casually breaking the handcuffs' chain without so much as stopping to glance at them.
  • In Serenity, River is handcuffed and locked in a sealed storage room after she goes berserk. She stays in there for a while as the movie progresses, but she eventually manages to puzzle through her own telepathy-induced schizophrenia and realizes she needs to access the navigation computer - at which point she slips out of her restraints and knocks out Jayne when he comes into the room, making it clear that if she wanted to she could have escaped at any point. She instead stayed there because the rest of the crew were terrified of her.
  • Marv in the film of Sin City: He gets chained up and interrogated, then breaks his chains just as he's about to be let free. He explains that it's because he Wouldn't Hit a Girl.
    • Another Sin City example is Hartigan, who actually had to claim to have committed a crime, but was innocent. His refusal was partly because of his distrust of his captors (who were paid off by a corrupt US senator who wanted to make him pay for trying to take down his son), and partly because he didn't want to be associated with the seriously heinous crime in question.
    • Also Wallace in Hell And Back is arrested by the Basin City police, and as they reach his cell, he removes the handcuffs himself.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home: Peter Parker gets knocked out and wakes up in a jail cell with some very friendly Football Hooligans. Realizing that he needs to save his friends, he uses his Super-Strength to break the lock on the door and escape. Instead of escaping, the hooligans close the door and sit there.
  • In Support Your Local Sheriff, James Garner's character has one of the bad guys so badly buffaloed that he's willing to stay in a jail cell that has no bars, just a line drawn on the floor to indicate where the bars should be. And a splash of red paint.

  • Discworld:
    • In Guards! Guards! Vetinari is usurped and thrown into prison. He has anticipated this, and the most secure cell happens to have its lock on the inside.
    • Leonard of Quirm could escape any time he wants to, but prefers the peace of prison.
      • Leonard of Quirm designed his own prison cell, and the traps in the hallway leading up to it! He's practically a boarder.
    • In Thud!, a group of Watch officers, including a pair of trolls, are captured by dwarven army troops and the trolls (and only the trolls) are put in chains. Vimes spots straight away that they're just cheap field chains and would be completely unable to hold the (massive, made-of-stone) trolls for more than a few seconds... but that would give the dwarfs the legal ability to kill the "escaping prisoner". Fortunately, Detritus is more than experienced enough to see through the trick.
  • In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer convinces Jim that he can't just walk out of his cabin, and has to make his escape in a properly epic fashion. Jim's already legally been freed but Tom's keeping it a secret.
  • Horatio Hornblower: The titular character, after being released from a Spanish prison to aid in a rescue mission at sea, refuses to stay on British ship that eventually picks them up, because he had given the Spanish his parole.
    • The British captain is little pleased by this. Even less when Hornblower points out that the Spanish with him must be released as they were engaged in rescue at sea. British Naval regulations must be cited before the Captain agrees, but he did agree.
    • Hornblower ends up being exchanged early as a result though.
  • A couple of Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker books have done this. Alvin can pretty much go wherever he wants, whenever he wants, but allowed himself to be kept imprisoned twice, though I seem to recall he eventually broke out the second time because there was an emergency.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings:
    • Merry and Pippin get captured by the Uruk-Hai, manage to free themselves and then keep wearing their bonds while they wait for the right moment to escape.
    • Subverted when Frodo is captured - Tolkien makes no mention of any sort of restraint on him AND his guards have almost completely annihilated one another, but seeing as he's malnourished, in mental anguish from being separated from the Ring, and also sick from Shelob's poison, he is unable to escape.
  • Subverted in Arsène Lupin in Prison as there's no question that Lupin is guilty or could easily escape. The only reason he stays in prison is so he is able to pull off a caper that could only be done if he were in prison. In the next story The Escape of Arsène Lupin his first escape from prison is part of a plan for particularly spectacular escape.
  • In Stephen Pressfield's Tides of War, this happens with Socrates, representing the Truth in Television event, at least if Plato's Crito is accurate.
  • Happens briefly in Codex Alera, when a group of Alerans are imprisoned by the Canim. They are put on the top of a tower, with no nearby buildings to jump to, no way to climb, and generally no way down. The only way to escape the prison would be to fly. Which most adult Alerans (and every single one of the "prisoners") can do. They stay because they need to talk to the person who threw them in prison.
  • This is the plot of Anton Chekhov's short story The Bet. A young lawyer bets that he could survive fifteen years in a prison, and an older banker offers him a large sum of money if he can spend the whole time in his garden house - a prison with no locks or bars, with only a guard to report if the lawyer has escaped and thus forfeited the bet. The story picks up towards the end of the fifteen years and describes how the two men have changed - the banker has now lost most of his money, and paying his side of the wager will ruin him, and the lawyer has spent his confinement reading every book he has ever wished to read, and now sees that wisdom is far more valuable than material things. The night before the deadline is up, the banker decides to kill the lawyer to avoid paying him. But when he reads a letter the lawyer had been writing, he realises that the lawyer intended to leave the prison before the time was up, having no interest in the money. Sure enough, the lawyer leaves the next day, nullifying the bet and leaving both men the wiser for it.
  • One Nation, Under Jupiter: Despite Diagoras' repeated offers to free her, Relicta insists on serving her punishment and continuing to live in exile.
  • By the end of Toll the Hounds, book eight of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Clip lives in a dungeon cell in Black Coral. He wasn't put there by the other Andii — he went there himself and locked the door from inside.
  • Fate/strange Fake: Saber accidentally blows up an opera house in a battle. He and Ayaka Sajyou are Mistaken for Terrorist and arrested. Saber later demonstrates to the police that handcuffs and walls can't hold him as he can turn into a spirit, and even if he couldn't, he has Super-Strength. He says he didn't resist arrest because he didn't want to risk Ayaka getting hurt and he respects the police who were only doing their jobs. He declares he will stay in his cell until sunrise, but is forced to escape with Ayaka early when the police station gets attacked.
  • Happens twice in Worm and another two times in the sequel Ward.
    • In Worm, after Panacea is discovered to have mutilated, mind raped, and possibly physically raped her adopted sister Glory Girl during a mental breakdown, she demands to be sent to the Birdcage, an inescapable prison, on the grounds that she's a threat to humanity. She enforces this demand with threats to unleash horrific plagues if they don't imprison her.
    • Also in Worm Taylor turns herself in to the authorities after she was advised by a precognative cape to cut ties with her former life. It's shocking to her friends in-universe and doubly so to the audience, who had already witnessed her getting Captured on Purpose once before.
    • In Ward, Rain turns himself in to the authorities as soon as he feels he can safely do so because he feels he needs to pay for the crimes he committed while he was still a committed member of The Fallen. By the end of the story he is still looking for a way to atone but finds a way to do so without going to prison.
    • Also in Ward Swansong turns herself in for judgement after Beast of Burden provokes her into losing her temper and she murders him by blowing a foot-wide hole in his chest. With her hair-trigger temper and incredibly destructive powers she felt it was safer if she wasn't out in the world among normal people.
  • The Stormlight Archive: In the second book, Prince Adolin is almost killed in a five-on-one duel, but Captain Kaladin (who dislikes him but admires his father), jumps in to save his life. Immediately after they win the duel, Kaladin accuses a nobleman of a serious crime and is arrested. Adolin believes him, and plants himself in the cell next to him, refusing to leave until Kaladin is released.

    Live-Action TV 
  • As part of her Heel–Face Turn on Angel Faith turns herself in to the police and is sent to prison for a killing she committed back on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her breakout when a Slayer is needed 3 seasons later proves she could have escaped any time.
  • Played for laughs in Arrested Development when GOB ends up in a coalition-run prison in Iraq. The whole thing is actually a government trick to get him to lead them to some evidence against his father, and they keep intentionally giving him opportunities to escape, but he just points out their "mistakes" each time rather than taking advantage of them.
  • On Bones, not only the main character's father, but her brother, do this to restore her respect in them.
    • Zack also demonstrated the ability to escape quite easily.
  • Corner Gas: Davis voluntarily goes to jail for charity; the jail cell hasn't had a proper lock for years.
  • Doctor Who: It's revealed in "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone" that River Song is imprisoned in the Stormcage Containment Facility for the murder of an unidentified individual, possibly the Doctor himself. When she needs to (normally to go off on some adventure with the Doctor), she will happily escape and even let the guards see her packing her bags and inform them of her plans, and then return to her cell willingly when the adventure is done. Why she does this instead of just leaving for good is not clear, although it is possible that, in her ridiculously convoluted time-travel relationship with the Doctor, she needs somewhere where she can reliably be expected to be.
    • As of "The Wedding of River Song" we know that she is indeed imprisoned for killing the Doctor, but didn't really, and that part of the reason she remains in prison is to provide clear historical evidence to the Silence that the Doctor was, in fact, killed.
  • Hightown: Frankie Sr. does what he wants in prison. It's pretty clear he could escape when he wants to.
  • In "The Jailhouse Job" on Leverage Nate, arrested in the season 2 finale, refuses the team's offer of rescue until someone else is in trouble.
  • In Lois & Clark, Superman promises to not use his superpowers since the people of Metropolis thinks that he is the cause of a localized heat wave (it was actually Lex Luthor). When he saves someone, he is arrested and put in holding, where one of the other detainees starts to mess with him, ("I just tugged on Superman's cape!"). When the jerk tries to punch him, Supes dodges and the bum lands his punch on another guy. The other guy is not happy and Superman just shrugs at the first one: "Kinda sucks to be you right now."
  • Played for laughs on My Name Is Earl. Camden's resident "Crazy Witch Lady" has been rounding up people who wronged her in the past by inviting them over for tea, Slipping a Mickey, and then tossing them down in the basement while they're unconscious. She tries this on Catalina, but does not realize that Catalina is immune to roofies and the like, since so many men have tried this on her over the years. But Catalina feels bad that this old woman has gone to so much trouble that she allows herself to be tossed down into the basement in a burlap sack, and then chains herself to a post.
  • In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "I, Robot", a self-aware robot called Adam has just killed its creator after said creator, on the behest of the government, tried to erase Adam's personality and reprogram him as a mindless weapon. Most of the episode consists of a trial determining whether or not Adam should be considered a person fit to stand trial or a piece of haywire machinery that should be immediately scrapped. The entire time he is cuffed with rather hefty restraints. In the end Adam wins the right to stand trial as a person. However, as everyone is leaving the courthouse, the prosecuting attorney who argued against Adam's humanity accidentally walks into the path of a truck. Adam effortlessly breaks his restraints and pushes her out of the way, sacrificing himself in the process.
  • In Smallville, Heat, Clark is arrested for arson. Chloe talks him out of breaking out. Which he did anyway.
  • An early episode of Stargate SG-1 has Teal'c captured and put on "trial" for killing a man years ago (when he served Apophis). It's an absurd Kangaroo Court, the team is fully armed, the locals have only medieval weapons, and the Stargate can't be more than thirty feet away. The only complication: Teal'c is guilty as charged, and refuses escape. Even after the Goa'uld attack and Teal'c is freed and armed to join the fighting, he shows up for his scheduled execution.
    • Needless to say, the locals have changed their mind about sentencing by this point.
  • Supernatural: The Winchesters purposely trip a motion detector to get themselves arrested so they can investigate a haunted prison.
    • In another episode they allow themselves to be committed to a mental institute to investigate the deaths of patients. When they are done, they just walk out of the place with minimum of effort.
  • Neal Caffrey on White Collar broke out of prison 3 months before the end of his sentence to find his girlfriend. This suggests that he could have left at any time. It is also ridiculous that the 'tracking anklet' he has in the first season can literally be cut off by a pair of scissors. If he wanted to leave, 5 minutes would be more than enough time to disappear. The real problem for Neal is what to do after he escapes. He does not have the funds to live comfortably in another country and does not fancy a quiet life as a nobody in some backwoods town. Baring those options, he knows that sooner or later Peter and the FBI would track him down and put him into a maximum security prison for a long time. It is easier to just finish his two year probation while living in a penthouse apartment in the middle of Manhattan.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • ''Christ Jesus, who willingly gave himself up to suffer something as terrible as crucifixion so we wouldn't have to, making this Older Than Feudalism: "Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and he will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" ([[Matthew 26:53 NKJV]])
    • The missionaries Paul and Silas are locked up in jail when a miracle happens and the jail wall collapses. The guard freaks out that he'll be punished, but then sees that they just stayed in their cell singing hymns.
      • The story says that the guard was getting ready to kill himself because he was afraid of punishment from his bosses for losing the prisoners. Paul actually has to tell him, "Do yourself no harm for we are still here." The guard falls down to his knees and asks Paul the most important question of his life: "What must I do to be saved?" and the response given is, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." The story notes how the guard is converted by the wonder of the occasion, that a prisoner would stay behind to help his prison guard.

  • In Pokémon Live!, upon hearing Team Rocket has Pikachu, when Jessie and James arrive to capture him Ash lets them. They're put off by this.

    Video Games 
  • In Breath of Fire I, you encounter Karn for the first time when you get thrown in jail. He's sleeping there. Bug him enough and he'll open the doors so you can escape... then go back to sleep.
  • Bug Fables: A pair of criminals named Cenn and Pisci pretend to be explorers, despite being denied such a certification by Maki, in order to abuse their "rank" and boss around people. At the end of the quest where they are introduced, they are subdued and sent off to Rubber Prison. When the heroes go to Rubber Prison later on, Cenn and Pisci are seen in an unlockable cell, but they refuse to leave despite the wasps freeing and recruiting other prisoners after taking over the prison. They seem to genuinely want to reform, and the party speculates that Maki may be more willing to give them an explorer's permit once they're released.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, Rinoa surrenders herself to be imprisoned and have her sorceress powers sealed in order to prevent the Big Bad from being able to possess her. Then Squall breaks her back out anyway, but it was a nice thought.
  • In Hades, Sisyphus will do this if Zagreus commutes his sentence. Even if he's not being actively punished any more, all his friends are still in the prison and they can't leave.
  • In MapleStory, the Black Wings are keeping the Council President of Eidenstein in line by holding his daughter Gabrielle hostage, but they're so dumb that Gabrielle is able to feed the Resistance information while still a prisoner, and refuses the player's offer of rescue in order to keep most of the villains put.
  • Cody from Street Fighter Alpha 3 has a tendency to leave his prison cell, pick fights with other fighters, then return to the cell. He also wears handcuffs that he can remove at any time. He's a bit hard to take seriously, even by his Final Fight compatriots.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Izoold has been damaged by several acts of arson. The man in jail for these crimes is Regal Bryant, wearing his trademark shackles. After you clear his name, he is released from jail, whereupon he immediately breaks his shackles and suggests that Izoold use a stronger brand (from the Lezareno company, natch).
    • Regal did this in earlier in Tales of Symphonia, using a Kamehame Hadoken to destroy the prison cell he and the party were stuck in. He only did this once the party had exhausted all other options, and it took little effort on his behalf. He refuses to use his hands to destroy anything, as he had to Mercy Kill the woman he loved with them.
  • Touhou Project has Flandre Scarlet, the uberpowered little vampire who lives in the basement of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. For years fans viewed her situation as a Madwoman in the Attic scenario, that Flan's older sister Remilia had been forced to lock her up as a safety measure. Then Cheating Detective Satori had Flandre explain that actually, she likes the basement - there's no bothersome sunlight, and she gets meals delivered daily, so she has little reason to leave.
    Flandre: (grinning) I mean, I can destroy anything I want. You couldn't lock me up if you tried to.
  • Yes, Your Grace: One of the recurring petitioners is Pietro, a lord who is persuaded that someone is out to kill him. If the player chooses to throw him into the castle's dungeons, it will dawn on him that he now has a guard and metal bars between him and whoever is trying to kill him, and he'll happily stay there.

  • Miss Dynamite from the webcomic of the same name stays in jail (at the first chapters) just because they keep her comfortable.
  • The Mechanicsburg arc in Girl Genius has Agatha posing as a murderer because the prison itself is the latest Plot Coupon.
  • Implied to be the case with the inhumanly strong and almost literally unstoppable Mister Inertia in General Protection Fault, as he seems to be waiting for something while in UGA captivity.
  • Frequently subverted in Schlock Mercenary. The company policy is that when a mercenary is arrested they stay put and don't break anything, because posting bail is fairly cheap and doesn't have the drawback of making the government issue a warrant for you in case you want to come back to the system. Unfortunately, mercenaries get bored.
    • Schlock has broken out of prison and then had to break back in at least once.
  • In It's Walky!, Sal is sent to prison. It would take no effort to bust out of there using her superhuman strength, but she stays on principle.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Roy tells his companions not to free him and Belkar when they were imprisoned by the Empire of Blood... or at least not until they've secured information about Girard's Gate from General Tarquin.
  • In The Specialists, Hartmann reasons that La Résistance hasn't killed him yet, but the Nazis definitely will.
  • In Drowtales Mel'arnach demonstrates this trope in her very first appearance by knocking out one of her guards, scaring the other off with a kiss and effortlessly slipping out of her cuffs. Later in the story she actually breaks out of her so-called prison twice, and it's made clear that the only reason she's staying is out of the hope that she'll be able to connect with her daughter Ariel.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • When Bumi is imprisoned by the Fire Nation, they place him in a metal box with only his face exposed. The Fire Nation soldiers thought that by completely immobilizing his arms and legs, they prevented him from Earthbending, but it turns out twitching his nose is all the movement he needs for that. Bumi willingly restrains himself until the Firebenders temporarily lose their powers, so it is easier for him to not just escape, but take back his whole city by himself.
    • In the episode "Avatar Day", Aang refuses to break out when one of his previous incarnations is accused of murder. He even gets slapped into stocks. The problem is they're designed for adults, so Aang, who is pretty skinny anyway, has no trouble at all taking them off when he wants to.
    • In "The Earth King", rock restraints are put on Aang's wrists after his team surrender themselves to the Earth King. Since Aang has been training as an Earthbender, this is pointless, but Aang lets them stay on so he can make a good impression. He even briefly takes them off to wave, then puts them back on.
  • In the Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode "Jailhouse Flock", the good guys get arrested. The Planeteers get bailed out, but not Captain Planet. He chooses to stay, even using his superpowers for hard labor. It is only when his name is cleared that he leaves.
  • Played with by Fox of Gargoyles. When Coyote is breaking out all of other members of The Pack, she decides to stay. The thing is, the entire set up was a Xanatos Gambit by her lover, Xanatos himself, to significantly reduce her sentence for good behavior. If she joined the break out she'd have to worry about being re-arrested. The actions of the Pack were meaningless to achieve this goal and Xanatos knew they'd be swiftly recaptured.
    • Xanatos himself served his prison time quietly during a significant chunk of Season 1, despite having the impressive resources of his multinational corporation to call upon.
  • Demonstrated several times in the Justice League series.
    • Green Lantern John Stewart is tried and convicted of destroying a planet, and although he could easily resist arrest and escape (particularly with the help of the rest of the JL), he doesn't because he feels people with that kind of power need to be held accountable (plus, the set up is so good that even he thinks he's guilty).
    • When Flash is mind-controlled and commits a crime in "The Brave and the Bold". Green Lantern hauls him out of the confession room, informing the police that Flash must be innocent; if he were guilty he would already have escaped. Flash then proceeds to demonstrate how he can't be held by handcuffs. He'd been willing to stay, but Lantern was too impatient to wait for him to be exonerated.
    • The Justice League is accused of firing their Kill Sat on a government base, and six of the founding seven (Batman refuses) turn themselves in. As they're going into custody, one MP asks if they should cuff the superheroes. His superior scoffs, saying something to the tune of, "Do you really think that would make a difference?"
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: Played for laughs in "Bad Po", where Po gets split into a good and evil half and his evil half locks his good half and later Shifu in some stockades. Soon after Shifu is locked up, Good Po reveals Bad Po dropped the key within reaching distance but doesn't want to pick it up and free himself because Bad Po told him to stay and he wants him to like him. After Shifu convinces Good Po freeing them won't upset Bad Po, Good Po reveals his stockade was never locked and gets the key to free Shifu.
  • On The Looney Tunes Show, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are put in prison, and Bugs finds that prison life agrees with him; free meals, free gym, and best of all, protection from the other prisoners so he can insult them indiscriminently ("It's a smart-aleck's paradise!"). When they both escape shackled to each other, all Bugs wants is to turn himself in. And once they have served their sentence, Bugs has to be dragged out kicking and screaming.
  • In the Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon, one episode had Mega get arrested by humans who, thanks to Wily, thought he was behind the Evil Plan of the week. As he didn't want to harm the humans, he let himself be handcuffed and led away. When his name was cleared, he snapped the cuffs easily.
  • In one episode of the Mister T cartoon, Mr. T is arrested for theft; his friends ask why he doesn't just break out and he then proceeds to demonstrate that he could — and quite easily — but he says that he is innocent and therefore has no need to run away.
  • Popeye:
    • A Fleischer cartoon has our sailor hero helping Olive with household chores but getting on the wrong side of a policeman who is citing Popeye for numerous vehicle violations. When Popeye accidentally knocks a flower vase off a window sill and it hits the policeman, he suddenly says "I hit an offisker! I broke the law!" He totes the unconscious cop in his car to the nearest jail, sits the cop down and locks himself in a cell.
    Popeye: I always obeys the law! (singing) 'Cause I'm Popeye the Sailor Man! (toot! toot!)
    • In another cartoon, Olive becomes a cop herself, and Popeye thinks it's too dangerous; he tries to protect her, but only messes up and hurts himself each time, eventually being arrested (by Olive, ironically) when he gets involved in a brawl. Then, however, his hunch is proven right when a masher tries to assault Olive; he hears her screams and, proving the jail could never hold him, breaks out, then rescues her.
  • Ricochet Rabbit, "Jailbreak-In" has a bad guy refuse to leave the jail, as he enjoys the free room and board there. After several unsuccessful eviction attempts, the sheriff finally does toss the bad guy out, leading to him blowing up the jail in frustration: "If I can't stay there, no one can! Goodbye, jail!" BLAMMY! AT the very end Sheriff Ricochet puts him to work building the new jail, which will end up holding the stubborn bad guy once again.
  • The Simpsons
    • In "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo", Homer and Bart get arrested in Japan and are put in a jail cell... with paper walls. Only after his bail is paid and the door is opened does Homer walk through the wall.
    • In "Realty Bites", we see that one of the prisons in Springfield operates on the honor system. Most of the prisoners actually comply!
  • This is played with in an episode of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, where members of S.H.I.E.L.D. grab Jonah so Nick Fury can have a word with him, accidentally grabbing Peter along with him. This means they have to detain Peter while Jonah and Fury have their talk; while Peter realizes it wouldn't be a good idea to simply break out of the cell and give his identity away, he's rather curious, so he undoes a vent entrance in order to find Jonah and listen in. He manages to do so and get back before anyone notices.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: In "Doing Time," Mrs. Puff goes to jail after SpongeBob makes a hash of Bikini Bottom during a driving lesson. Despite some initial protests, Mrs. Puff quickly realizes that being in jail keeps her away from SpongeBob as well as the rest of her daily stresses. The guards try to set her free after a while, and a remorseful SpongeBob and Patrick come along to spring her, but she refuses to leave with any of them.
  • In The Transformers two-parter "Megatron's Master Plan", Megatron tricks the world into believing that the Autobots are evil and the Decepticons are good. Despite being easily powerful enough to do whatever they feel like regardless of public opinion, the Autobots submit to arrest, sit through a trial, and agree to be banished from the planet, only deciding to come back after Megatron reprograms their navigation system to fly them into the sun.
  • In one series of Underdog cartoons, the hero is framed for various crimes by a criminal gemcutter named Tap-Tap, who is working for the gangster Riff-Raff. Eventually he turns himself in, not to exonerate himself, but because Tap-Tap's disguise is so convincing, he even fools Underdog himself, who assumes he was sleepwalking. Although the hero could escape from jail any time, he does not, and the ruse is discovered when Riff-Raff does it for him, breaking him out because they needed him to cut a large diamond that Tap-Tap couldn't dent. Naturally, this exposes the ruse, and the real criminals end up in jail.
  • Beast in X-Men: The Animated Series was once wrongly sent to prison. Magneto, thinking this would make him bitter, broke him out in an attempt to recruit him as an ally - at which point Beast politely asked him to leave, as he wished to stand trial and prove his innocence. Also displayed in a later scene where Gambit is visiting him and Beast casually bends the bars to his cell (and then straightens them again) to let him in.
  • In the Young Justice (2010) episode "Bloodlines", When Impulse appears in the Cave and runs amok, he is knocked out by Nightwing and has his hands and feet cuffed. While Nightwing, Robin, and Beast Boy interrogate him, he stays put. But once Mal Duncan arrives and opens an exit, Impulse simply vibrates his body through the cuffs and runs off.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television, every now and then. A notable example involves a preacher who was sued for libel and refused to post bail to make a point. The prison wasn't particularly nice, either, and aggravated his health problems. On the other hand, his accuser was discredited and fled the country.
  • If we are to believe the autobiography of the Renaissance goldsmith and sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini, he was guilty of several crimes during his lifetime. However, the time he went to jail was for no real crime (a false accusation by his servant). Yet, since it was his "first" offense - he was never caught previously - he was not locked in, but allowed to roam the St. Angelo castle, where he was imprisoned, quite freely. Touched by the kindness of the castle's governor, Cellini stayed in jail freely, despite even the soldiers in the castle offering to aid him in his escape, since they were aware that he was condemned wrongly. Cellini's word, however was a word of honor.
    • Nonetheless, this trope was subverted some time later, when the governor, prone to sudden bouts of schizophrenic disassociation (thinking himself a pitcher of oil, a frog and whatnot), as well as paranoia, decided, during one of these, to confine Cellini to an actual cell. The goldsmith took offense and promised to make a jailbreak as soon as possible. He did so in one of the most daring lone jailbreaks known to history, breaking his leg in the process and limping with an open wound about half a kilometer to Florence, where he made his final escape.
  • Socrates, having been condemned to death by the Athenians, was urged by his friends to flee the city. Instead, he chose to stay and be executed to make the point that he loved virtue more than life.
    • That, and by that time he was old and leaving the city to live with barbarians could be seen as a fate worse than death by him anyway. Might as well die with his dignity and honor intact.
  • In more chivalrous times, officers captured in war would be given the opportunity to give their parole, which was usually a sworn promise that they would not fight against the capturers' troops. Mediaeval nobles often ended up as guests of their capturing lord, and many made great inroads in impregnating the local womenfolk. Later on, the fortress-town of Verdun was the go-to destination for British POWs in the Peninsular War. If they were enlisted, they sat it out in freezing, wet cells. If they were officers, they lived in the town and formed the Officers' Philosophy Club, which did precious little philosophy and quite a lot of drinking and whoring.
    • "Paroling" was a common means for prisoners of war to be taken during The American Civil War - even for regular enlisted men. However, after the South refused to grant the same terms to African American soldiers and the North gradually caught wise to the fact that the South could not spare soldiers the same way the North could paroling and exchangenote  gradually broke down, with the horrors of Camp Andersonville (for which the commander was executed in one of the first war crimes trials) an ultimate consequence of this.
  • There are quite a few cases of people who have committed crimes solely to end up somewhere where there is a roof, beds and regular food.