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The Jailer

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"I hereby sentence you to life without the possibility of parole..."

Batman: I've seen how you treat your prisoners. Forgotten and scared, without hope or compassion.
Lock-Up: Can it be you actually care for those creatures? You're just as crazy as they are!

A vigilante, usually a Knight Templar or Well-Intentioned Extremist, who, rather than killing his chosen targets, imprisons them. Unlike judges and prison wardens, this character typically has no legal authority to actually lock people up, and most often is doing this out of a desire to punish those they feel the law can't or won't, a desire for power over others, or quite frequently both. Don't expect this villain to be overly concerned about the rights of their prisoners.

For actual jailers who abuse their prisoners, see Wardens Are Evil.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach has Quilge Opie, a Vandenreich's Quincy general. Although he is extremely powerful, capable of tanking many attacks and doing extreme damage, his greatest ability lies in imprisioning his enemies in a nearly indestructible jail made from reishi, which was capable of holding Ichigo Kurosaki for a really long time. He is not called "Quilge of the Jail" for nothing.
  • In Kanokon, Yatsuka-sensei and the other nonhuman monsters' job is to make sure the nonhuman students stay put and don't break The Masquerade until they've figured out how to fit in with humans.
  • Oldboy features a prison for people who need to get rid of someone but don't have the skills or the will to kill. The main character, in Chapter 1, is dumped back into the real world after fifteen years in this prison.

    Comic Books 
  • Lyle Bolton, alias Lock-Up, from Batman. As this guy is a Canon Immigrant from the animated series, details about him are better provided in the Western Animation section, though his methods were slightly different in his comic appearances — he jailed people he felt had manipulated the system to avoid justice (turning state’s evidence for the promise of immunity, having a high priced attorney get charges dismissed, etc)
    • In his first appearance, the Ratcatcher was keeping the men he blamed for his imprisonment (the judge, the arresting officer, the eyewitness, etc.) as captives in the sewer.
  • The eponymous Chain Gang from the short-lived DC Comics title Chain Gang War.
  • The Batman of the future in DC One Million runs the Solar System's hypermax prison facility, deep within Pluto.
  • Rayek in ElfQuest, who never wanted to kill Winnowill (partly because he loves her, but mostly because if she dies her evil soul will be free to wreak havoc), and in the end becomes her living jailer, keeping her spirit within his own body as he tries to teach her to love.
  • Grimbor the Chainsman from Legion of Super-Heroes.
  • In the Marvel 2099 universe, the Punisher (2099 version) had his own private prison. Of course, in his Cyberpunk Dystopia Crapsack World, anyone who could shell out the fine could get away with any crime, including murder. This made him - relatively speaking - as much an extremist in his world as the original Punisher (who just shoots everybody) was in his. Possibly more so; his prison came with a torture chamber. By the way, he reserved his prison for offenders whose crimes he felt didn't quite deserve the lethal approach - this was actually his idea of mercy! He also had his own version of the electric chair in case he ever changed his mind.
    • As the legal system has turned into a for-profit business, prisons aren't around anymore due to the expenses involved, and convicts instead get a shot that removes a certain number of years from their life; this means the Punisher's private prison is also the only one in town. New arrivals have rarely even heard of locking criminals up before.
  • Mr Smyth from Secret Six, a slave trader who was building what he hoped would be the world's biggest and only prison.
  • Spider-Woman: Locksmith in the Marvel Universe who used to imprison super-humans, feeling their feats overshadowed the achievements of ordinary humans. Most of his victims were Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains who Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) had fought during the run of her own comic, but eventually he managed to capture Tigra and Spider-Woman herself. While the design of his prison to prevent his captives from using their powers to escape was considerable, the heroine managed to outsmart him. (First she had Tigra insult Poltergeist to start a fight, which shorted out the power that maintained the cells. Then she convinced Gypsy Moth, to use her powers of cloth to switch their costumes. The Locksmith was fooled, and put Spider-Woman and Gypsy Moth in the wrong cells after the power was restored, and the one designed for Gypsy Moth couldn't hold Spider-Woman. Once everyone was free, the Locksmith stood no chance.
  • Superman:
    • The Master Jailer (Deathtrap in Post-Crisis continuity) is a sort of example, except he's an out and out villain who just likes the power trips provided by his powers. And of course he's an unusual example because he actually has powers to facilitate his fascination with incarceration. Also of note is the fact that he was the architect who designed the supermax prison in Metropolis, Stryker's Island.
    • His daughter carries on the family business under the names Snare and Locksmith.
    • Faora Hu-Ul was a Phantom Zone villain introduced in Action Comics #471. She was a beautiful Kryptonian woman whose unexplained hatred for men led her to torture and kill 23 men at a secret concentration camp in her home.
  • Werewolf by Night: The Hangman, another Marvel Universe vigilante, would murder male evildoers but imprison female ones to 'protect them from corruption'. Unfortunately, he had a nasty habit of forgetting about them, leaving them without food or water...
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: At the start of the Golden Age Diana left her villains to the cops and the legal system to deal with, but after Paula von Gunther's attack on Paradise Island she and the Amazons build a prison and start dumping all of Diana's female foes there indefinitely without trial regardless of what their alleged crimes or where they took place. This includes locking them into mind altering devices that force them to obey all orders and act happy about it. While most are brainwashed into Happiness in Slavery the rest desperately want the girdles off but cannot remove them themselves. The only character to ever try to point out how unlawful this is is Byrna Brilyant, who is also the only known character to hold onto their own mind enough to subvert orders while locked in a Venus Girdle since she built herself a new and improved set of Powered Armor. No "good" character ever acknowledges that there might be anything wrong with this set-up.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Antebellum, Senator Denton and his daughter Elizabeth are running a slave camp where kidnapped black people are forced to live and work as slaves in the antebellum South.
  • The Blind Man in Don't Breathe is keeping the woman who killed his daughter prisoner in his basement. After she is killed, he plans the same fate for Rocky.
  • Cruz Diablo: Diego de la Barrera keeps Carlos and Marta in the dungeons of his palace.
  • In Escape Plan, Hobbes is warden of The Tomb: a privately run, off-the-books prison where individuals, corporations and governments can pay to have troublesome individuals 'disappeared'. There are no trials and no release dates. And because Wardens Are Evil, he enjoys exercising absolute power over his personal fiefdom.
  • In House of Whipcord, Margaret runs a secret illegal prison for 'morally corrupt' and 'delinquent' young women, replete with a group of tough female wardens who administer a harsh regime of corporal punishment upon their prisoners. Despite how this premise may sound at first glance, it is worth noting that this is not your bog-standard Girls Behind Bars exploitation flick, and what Margaret's victims go through is instead played for all the horror of what an actual situation like this would look like.
  • The Warden who puts Young in the hole in Murder in the First is an unusual example, since he serves this purpose within a jail.
  • The big twist of The Secret in Their Eyes when it's revealed that the protagonist has locked up the murderer of his wife for twenty-five years.

  • In the Bulldog Drummond novel The Black Gang, Drummond and his friends set up a concentration camp in Scotland for Communists.
  • A borderline case occurs in the Young Bond novel Hurricane Gold by Charlie Higson. The main villain El Hurrican runs an island hideaway for criminals on the run. Once on the island, they can never leave. While their money lasts, they live a life of luxury, but once their money runs out, he puts them to work as a slave labour force. El Hurrican does confide to a youthful James Bond that he regards himself as the jailer of these criminals.
  • In Soon I Will Be Invincible, major supervillain Baron Ether lives out his twilight years under house arrest in his mansion, with his nemesis The Mechanist as his jailer.
    • Although he's not doing a great job. While Baron Ether never tries to break out, people keep breaking in to see him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Flash (2014), the heroes turn part of STAR Labs into a private prison for metahumans who they think are too powerful for the criminal justice system to deal with.
  • Inspector George Gently: In "Goodbye China", Gently uncovers a pair of police officers running an off-the-books detention centre for young offenders where they attempt to beat some respect for the law into them.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: In "Stress Position", a group of prison guards are holding a number of 'off-the-books' prisoners (held under the Patriot Act) for the Justice Department within the protective custody wing of a state prison. They decide this gives them the right to torture and abuse the detainees as they see fit. When one of their number who has misgivings gets another job, the leader of the guards murders him so he cannot talk.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons has Torog, Evil God of the Underdark. Patron of Jailors and Torturers.
  • The Mutants & Masterminds Freedom City villain Warden is one of these. He worked on making prisons as non-cardboardy as possible, and got a bit fed up with people making that task harder by telling him that the prisoners have rights; didn't they forfeit those when they ended up in prison? His current goal is to overthrow "soft and corrupt" law and replace it with something altogether more draconian. He imprisons people in the "Dungeon Dimension", one of the many realms of the "Dimension of Doors" by means of a hyperdimensional key of his own design.
  • Princess: The Hopeful has the Wardens, dream entities from the Dreamlands whose function was to keep the souls the Radiant Queens and their Princesses imprisoned here so they couldn't use their Born-Again Immortality. By the time the story takes place, they have been overthrown and are hiding in the darkest corners of the Dreamlands, but they still occasionally try to capture Princesses when they can. Somewhat unusual for the trope, they actually are terrible at doing physical prisons- their true skills reside in making you not realize you're imprisoned in the first place.

    • The former Dark Hunter now Piraka Avak had this role even before he was recruited to his former organization, locking up and guarding prisoners brought to him. When it occurred to him that with enough time and motivation, any cells or restraints he could make for his prisoners could be circumvented and escaped from, he brought his concerns to the Hunters, who shipped him off to the Brotherhood of Makuta That was how he got his Tailor-Made Prison powers.
    • Hydraxon of the Order of Mata Nui, in charge of The Pit. To be fair, it is his job description, and he's hunting escapees in a place where he can expect to find only escapees, but he's still a little too quick to assume that everyone he meets is an escaped criminal. Fellow Order member Botar, in charge of prisoner apprehension and transport, also liked his job a bit too much, trouble is he doesn't bother to look after his prisoners, or know that they might have escaped.

    Video Games 
  • The Ur-quan Kzer-za in Star Control II. Either you joined them, or you got slave-shielded and trapped on your home world.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: When Sonic disappears in "Tails's Tale," Tails discovers Robotnik has paid a small fortune for a magical bat to lock the hedgehog up in his temple which will disappear shortly. Played with in that while the bat does charge a fee for his services, his victims are supposed to be actual criminals and villains and Robotnik had tricked him into imprisoning Sonic. Tails wins the day by proving Sonic's heroic nature, thus causing the angry bat to turn on Robotnik.
  • Hama from Avatar: The Last Airbender was a waterbender who was imprisoned by the Fire Nation during the Southern Water Tribe raids, but escaped through the use of Bloodbending, a creepy variant of Waterbending she developed while she was incarcerated. Upon her escape, she fled to a Fire Nation town and vented her hatred of the Fire Nation by imprisoning people herself in a mountain.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes: As a culmination of his angst, in "Yellowjacket", Hank Pym abandons his interest in rehabilitating criminals and as Yellowjacket, starts appearing to kill them, but actually transports them to a miniature prison he created by himself. However, he abandons this project by the end of the episode.
  • Lock-Up from Batman: The Animated Series (and Canon Immigrant to the Batman comics). In the animated series, Lyle Bolton was once the new Head of Security at Arkham Asylum, but whose methods were so harsh and extreme that everyone at the asylum was afraid of him, particularly Scarecrow of all people. After being relieved of his post, he would go on to "arrest" those who he deemed to be at the root of Gotham's problems, including the mayor, Commissioner Gordon, reporter Summer Gleeson and the chief doctor of Arkham — the very same people who exposed his abuse of power at Arkham and got him fired — before being stopped by Batman and Robin.
  • Kampe, the jailer of Tartarus in Class of the Titans. Cronus was the only prisoner to have ever escaped under her watch. She hopes to correct this, even if it means sacrificing others to do so.
  • Code Lyoko; when XANA has a reason to take an enemy alive, he uses a Guardian, a monster Aelita describes as a "digital jail". Exactly how it captures a victim isn't known, as both times, it happened offscreen (although Aelita's reaction suggests it isn't pleasant) and once that happens, the prisoner is kept in an unconscious state inside the Guardian, which seems almost indestructible from outside force. However, it seems even dumber than XANA's other mooks, and can be fooled easily if presented with a clone or illusion of the intended target.
  • Danny Phantom has Walker, the obsessive sheriff type.
  • One episode of Gargoyles turns Goliath into this when he uses Odin's Eye to become a Physical God. The best way to "protect his friends" is to seal them in a cave for the rest of time. Nothing can get to them there.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: General Tsin in "The Most Dangerous Po", who is capturing the most dangerous villains in China and imprisoning them as his personal collection. Also an example of Hunting the Most Dangerous Game and The Collector.
  • Gigi, a Vain Sorceress and Hot as Hell demoness from The Life and Times of Juniper Lee; in order to stay young, she had to drain the energy from other magical beings, so she kidnapped them and turned them into animals before imprisoning them in the Orchid Bay Zoo. (June herself became a victim while trying to rescue them; a mistake on Gigi's part, as is often the case with this Trope.)
  • Played with in ReBoot when Megabyte imprisons Hexadecimal when he's not exploiting her power. When the firewall goes up imprisoning Megabyte, Hexadecimal remarks "now it is the jailer who has been jailed."
  • Demongo from the Samurai Jack episode "Jack versus Demongo the Soul Collector" is a unique example; not only is he a jailer (his victims being enemies of Aku) but his body is the jail, and he can command the imprisoned souls to fight for him. (Until, that is, Jack busts them out.)
  • Castle Captive, who appeared on an episode of The Smurfs (1981), was another villain who was both the Jailer and the jail. A living, intelligent castle, it appeared in the human world once every hundred years, its appearance luring travelers to it, only to trap them inside and after 24 hours, carry them to whatever realm it called home, for... well, some reason known only to himself but he did seem to be a cruel creature who liked seeing victims suffer. Escaping it was almost impossible, because it could control every part of itself, doors, furniture, even items as small as silverware, and use them against anyone who caused trouble. One prisoner was Nanny Smurf, who was rescued after the Castle appeared a century after being kidnapped.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil has Rhombulus from the High Magical Commission; his primary magic ability is to trap people in stasis inside near-indestructible crystals, which he uses to imprison various highly dangerous criminals. Unfortunately, he also happens to be a trigger happy, hot-headed Dumb Muscle who relies on his gut too much and dislikes having his opinions questioned. This eventually causes him to go full-blown Knight Templar because he refuses to accept that Eclipsa was a victim of racist prejudices rather than the Evil Sorcerer she was made out to be.
  • Static Shock had a villain named Leech who kidnapped and held captive other "Banged" meta-humans, the reason being his Bang-induced powers was the ability to assimilate those of others - temporarily. (Kind of like Superman's foe Parasite, but it only worked on Bang Babies). Victims included the criminals Ebon, Talon, and Hotstreak, but he seriously messed up when he tried to go after Static himself, grabbing rapper and Special Guest Lil' Romeo instead, who had been wearing a Static costume.
  • Mr Moss from Storm Hawks.
  • The Warden of Superjail! It's not like he's trying to uphold the law or anything. It's mostly because he loves incarcerating people that freaking much.
  • In Wakfu the Justice Knight (He's a KNIGHT OF JUSTICE!) fights and imprisons shushu. To be fair, shushu are highly destructive demons.