‘Prison Break’ Was Banned in Many Actual Prisons

The Fox TV series Prison Break has received a lot of love in its respectable 90-episode run, winning awards and receiving critical acclaim enough to earn itself an extra fifth season several years after it originally went off the air. Just like any show, though, the series had its detractors. However, few shows were so disliked by certain groups that they were banned from being watched in prison. As unusual as this situation might be, there is a fairly obvious (though no less silly) explanation. Let’s find out why Prison Break was banned in prisons in real life.

Real prisons banned ‘Prison Break’

Wentworth Miller in 'Prison Break.'
Wentworth Miller in ‘Prison Break’ premiering on Fox. | Fox Image Collection/Getty Images

For the uninitiated, Prison Break is about people breaking out of prisons. The first season follows Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) as he gets himself arrested in order to break himself and his falsely-convicted brother, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell), out of prison. From there, the plots continue to get more elaborate while retaining the central conceit of Michael breaking himself or others out of jail with his complex schemes, plus a dash of government conspiracy.

That kind of premise spooked the owners of at least 13 prisons in the country, and it resulted in Prison Break getting banned from being broadcast inside prison walls. The rationale was that, seeing the show and how the main characters planned to escape, real life prisoners might be inspired to try breaking out, too. Never mind that many of Michael’s plans were far too complex and unrealistic to actually work outside of a TV screen; just the thought of it was scary enough for them to keep the show in its own form of lockdown.

Obviously, this wasn’t a very widespread phenomenon. After all, only 13 prisons actually went through with prohibiting the show for inmates. Still, it’s amusing to think about, especially when other books, movies, and shows that present arguably much more reasonable ideas for breaking out of your cell (The Shawshank Redemption comes to mind.) haven’t been threatened like this.

There is some real life inspiration behind the series

While Prison Break is undoubtedly a work of fiction, the show does have a number of connections to the real prison-industrial complex throughout its production. Interesting as they may be, they don’t seem like they’d be any more likely to inspire real life prison breaks.

One notable example comes in the form of Warden Pope, the sympathetic prison warden who becomes something close to a friend to Michael despite their obviously incompatible goals. Actor Stacy Keach says he used the time he spent in prison during the 80s to build his character, taking what he’d learned behind bars to incorporate into his performance. On the opposite end of things, the actor who played the character Tweener, Lane Garrison, found himself sentenced to prison shortly after the character’s death in season 2.

Another far less fun connection is the inmate-controlled prison of Sona seen in season 3, which was based on Brazil’s Carandiru Prison. In this case, though, real life managed to be even more violent and tragic than fiction.

There’s still no news on ‘Prison Break’ Season 6

Despite the fairly complete ending the show received in its fifth and final season, there have been constant rumors of a Prison Break revival (a second one). Fox confirmed in 2018 that another season was supposedly in development, though they would later go back on this a year later. Even so, both the company and cast members involved with the show have hinted as recently as 2021 that the sixth season is still coming. What that might look like, however, is still up in the air, especially with the show’s original star not wanting to return to the role for any subsequent material.