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Playing With / Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook

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Basic Trope: A character goes to jail or prison for a relatively minor offense, and comes out and ends up committing worse crimes.

  • Straight: Bob gets five years for jaywalking. When he gets out, he commits a Bank Robbery.
  • Exaggerated: Bob is sent to jail to serve a five-month sentence for jaywalking. When he gets out, he becomes a Serial Killer.
  • Downplayed:
    • Bob is sent to prison for embezzlement. During his incarceration, he decides that subtlety is overrated and doesn't work, and decides to rob the bank in broad daylight, rather than try to be sneaky.
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    • Bob was send to juvies for a Crime of Self-Defense, and when he was send back to the normal school system, was pretty much a delinquent
  • Justified:
    • Bob has spent time with other convicts in there for far worse crimes, and has started to think like them.
    • Bob sees the prison as a Training from Hell, and when he comes out, he's ready.
    • Bob is still in 'survival mode', and just can't get out of that mindset.
    • Bob was framed up by Alice and he's completely innocent, and now, it's time for him to pay back.
    • While he was in prison for jaywalking, he lost his job and can't get another one because nobody wants to hire an ex-con. He doesn't have a family to rely on until he can get back on his feet (or his family is unable or unwilling to help him), and he needs money badly to pay the bills. So he feels like he had no choice but to rob the bank.
  • Inverted:
    • Bob goes to prison, and comes out fully rehabilitated and ready to be a good, functional, law-abiding citizen.
    • Bob is sent to prison for a serious crime like rape. After his release, he makes a habit of committing petty crimes.
  • Subverted: Bob claims to be this, but he was actually sent to prison for a much more serious crime, not a petty misdemeanor.
  • Double Subverted:
    • The crime was helping his girlfriend, Alice, escape from prison, which is a felony, however well-intentioned.
    • Bob ends up committing even worse crimes (e.g. if he was imprisoned for rape, he becomes a Serial Killer).
  • Parodied: The episode is a harsh satire written by critics of the penal system.
  • Zig Zagged: Bob gets arrested for a string of minor crimes, but manages to Plea Bargain down to just jaywalking. When he gets out of prison, he decides to rob a bank. Just outside the bank door, though, he has a change of heart and goes home. There he discovers his wife Diane in bed with Christopher, and kills them both, landing himself back in front of the judge on two counts of second-degree murder.
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  • Averted: Bob did not go to prison for jaywalking; he was merely fined.
  • Enforced:
    • Truth in Television, Rule of Drama.
    • The writers want to find a way to inject some sympathy into Bob's character, so they give him a backstory of having been hardened by the uncaring justice system.
  • Lampshaded: "First jaywalking and now armed robbery? Bob, I think prison hurt you more than it helped!"
  • Invoked: Bob meets his cellmate, a big tough bully who likes to brag about his armed-robbery exploits.
  • Exploited: Bob has always thought 'Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!', wants to become more of one, and so he gets himself arrested for doing something small so he can bond with his hardened kindred spirits.
  • Defied:
    • (See "Invoked") Bob is polite to the guy, but doesn't take any of his 'advice'. Instead, he just counts the days to the end of his sentence when he gets to see Alice again.
    • Bob is given counselling, rather than just being thrown in a cell 'to think about what he did'. The counselling helps him to rehabilitate, and become a truly law-abiding citizen, no matter with whom he shares space in prison.
    • Prisons are heavily tiered in offences such that first-timers don't spend time around hardened crooks and thus prisons can't operate as training houses.
    • All released prisoners that are caught doing crime again, no matter what kind of crime, get summary executions. While there's the occasional example of prisoners being framed so they will be assassinated by the cops or just plain not giving a crap, there is still an overall reduction of criminals willing to try to go back to crime.
  • Discussed: "Bob used to be such a good guy..."
  • Conversed: "That's the trouble with the penal system. They care far more about punishment than they do about rehabilitation."
  • Implied: Bob's second stint in prison is somewhat longer than his first, but he comments that "[his] friends" helped him pass the time more quickly there.
  • Deconstructed: This means Bob will eventually be sent back to prison, which could put strain on the prison system.
  • Reconstructed: Bob was cursed (don't ask how) to commit even worse crimes if he were free, so it turns out to be somehow Worth It to keep him inside.
  • Played For Laughs: Bob gets home and, upon seeing his own bed for the first time in an age, removes the tag from his mattress. His wife reacts to it as if he had murdered someone in cold blood.
  • Played For Drama: Bob returns home and becomes increasingly nervous about any actions he does being somehow misidentified as him trying to do another crime. Eventually he decides "the hell with it" and gets himself arrested, because he feels more safe amongst the people trying to shank and/or rape him.

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