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Akaban Fortress
Azkaban
Location information
Location

Island in the North Sea

Permanent residents
Affiliation

Ministry of Magic

"They don't need walls and water to keep the prisoners in, not when they're trapped inside their own heads, incapable of a single cheerful thought. Most go mad within weeks."
Remus Lupin on Azkaban[src]

Azkaban is a prison located on an island in the middle of the North Sea that serves the magical community of Great Britain. Using certain Charms, the prison is hidden from the muggle world, and is unplottable. It is thought to have undetectable extension charms placed on it (or similar types of magic) to make it bigger on the inside, as the prison seems to serve the whole of wizarding Britain. It is known that there are other wizarding prisons elsewhere, such as Nurmengard.

Azkaban gained a reputation as a horrible place, mostly due to the prison's guards: Dementors, foul creatures that suck the happiness out of the victim and cause great suffering to those in their proximity. Because of this, most of the prisoners eventually went insane and slowly died under the Dementors' influence. Since 1717, using any of the three Unforgivable Curses on another human being has carried a punishment of a life sentence in Azkaban (unless there is sufficient evidence that the caster did so under the influence of the Imperius Curse, or legal exceptions made by the Ministry of Magic as in the case of Aurors in the First Wizarding War).

Security

Pre-1998

Mass Breakout

The Daily Prophet announcing the 1996 mass break-out.

Azkaban was guarded by Dementors until most of them revolted and joined Lord Voldemort in summer of 1995. As a result, Voldemort's Death Eaters escaped en masse to rejoin their master in both 1996 and 1997.[1]

There is most likely an Anti-Apparation jinx on Azkaban; if there were not, wizards and witches could simply Apparate from the prison to the outside world. However, since it is debatable that most witches and wizards need a wand to Apparate, this may be irrelevant, as none of the prisoners maintain possession of their wands. Before 1995, most of the prisoners would barely have had enough strength to Apparate anyway, as the mere presence of Dementors, particularly in large numbers, inhibits the use of magical powers.

Prior to the Dementors' revolt, the only people ever to escape the prison were Barty Crouch Jr and Sirius Black, in 1982 and 1993, respectively. Barty Crouch Jr. was smuggled out by his father, Barty Crouch Sr., and replaced by his dying mother using Polyjuice Potion[2], while Sirius was able to escape by changing into his Animagus form of a dog.[3] The revolt has severely compromised the security, as multiple escapes were made with no more Dementors guarding the prison.

Bellatrix Lestrange - Prisoner at Azkaban

Bellatrix Lestrange in her Azkaban cell.

There is a graveyard outside the wall of Azkaban where the Dementors buried prisoners who died. Although the prison is set in the middle of the ocean with iron walls protecting it, it was unnecessary to keep prisoners inside, as Remus Lupin stated, because the prisoners were already trapped in their own heads due to the intense depression caused by the Dementors. As Sirius indicated, most prisoners went insane after a short while, and some even stopped eating, preferring death to their lives within Azkaban. Dementors fed the prisoners, indecating the prisoners might have felt depression at mealtimes.

It is not known whether wizards made the Azkaban island magically, or whether it was an existing ordinary rock island which wizards took over. If the latter is the case, when the sea level was lower in the Ice Age it would have been a rock hill standing above tundra which is now the bed of the North Sea.

After the war

After the end of the Second Wizarding War and Kingsley Shacklebolt's appointment as Minister for Magic in 1998, dementors were no longer employed as guards of Azkaban. This is likely because they had proven to be untrustworthy, and because the depression and madness their presence caused in prisoners is considered inhumane. Presumably, other security measures were employed to guard the prisoners, most likely far more humane. It is unknown how many surviving Voldemort supporters and Death Eaters were imprisoned in the aftermath.

Known Azkaban convicts

"We have confirmed that ten high security prisoners, in the early hours of yesterday evening, did escape. And of course, the Muggle Prime Minister has been alerted to the danger. We strongly suspect that the breakout was engineered by a man with personal experience in escaping from Azkaban; notorious mass murderer Sirius Black, cousin of the escapee Bellatrix Lestrange."
Cornelius Fudge interview to the Daily Prophet about the Azkaban Mass Breakout of January 1996[src]
Prisoner Current status Crime(s)
Avery Jr. Unknown Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Sirius Black Escaped (only actual unassisted escape from Azkaban while the Dementors were guarding it); now deceased Framed: imprisoned without trial after being falsely accused of murdering Peter Pettigrew and a dozen other innocent by-standing Muggles, life sentence; now vindicated
Crabbe Sr. Unknown Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Bartemius Crouch Jr. Smuggled out by his parents; later received the Dementor's Kiss Torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom with the Cruciatus Curse and murdering Bartemius Crouch Sr., life sentence.
Crispin Cronk Deceased Had pet Sphinxes in his backyard.
Mrs. Crouch Died during imprisonment, disguised as Barty Crouch Jr. Served time in place of her son, Barty Crouch Jr.
Antonin Dolohov Escaped in the January 1996 Mass Breakout; later defeated by Filius Flitwick in battle (either dead or re-imprisoned) Murdering Gideon and Fabian Prewett, life sentence; re-imprisoned for participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Percival Dumbledore Died during imprisonment Attacking Muggles without a logical explanation (retaliation for what happened to his daughter Ariana Dumbledore), life sentence.
Mundungus Fletcher No longer imprisoned; unknown how he escaped or if he was released Impersonating an Inferius during a robbery.
Marvolo Gaunt Released after serving at least one term; now deceased Assault on Ministry of Magic officials, served six months.
Morfin Gaunt Died in prison while serving what was at least his second term First term: Improper use of magic on a Muggle and assault on Ministry officials, served three years.
Second term: Framed by Tom Marvolo Riddle for murdering the Riddle family, life sentence.
Rubeus Hagrid Released Framed: Re-opening the Chamber of Secrets, imprisoned as a safety precaution (falsely accused by Tom Marvolo Riddle); released upon proven innocent.
Jugson Unknown Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Igor Karkaroff Released; now deceased. Membership in the Death Eaters; released in exchange for the names of several other Death Eaters.
Bellatrix Lestrange Escaped during the January 1996 Mass Breakout; now deceased Torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom into insanity through the Cruciatus Curse, torturing and killing muggles and wizards, life sentence.
Rabastan Lestrange Escaped during the January 1996 Mass Breakout; may have been re-imprisoned after the Battle of Hogwarts Torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom into insanity through the Cruciatus Curse, life sentence; re-imprisoned for participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Rodolphus Lestrange Escaped during the January 1996 Mass Breakout; may have been re-imprisoned after the Battle of Hogwarts Torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom into insanity through the Cruciatus Curse, life sentence; re-imprisoned for participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Lucius Malfoy Escaped from Azkaban in 1997; later pardoned Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Walden Macnair Escaped from Azkaban in 1997; defeated by Rubeus Hagrid during the Battle of Hogwarts Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Mulciber Escaped during the 1996 Mass Breakout; current status unknown Captured prior to Karkaroff's trial (possibly for use of the Imperius Curse); re-imprisoned for participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Nott Unknown Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Sturgis Podmore Released Attempting to break into the Department of Mysteries within the Ministry (actually controlled by Lucius Malfoy's Imperius Curse at the time), served six months.
Stan Shunpike Escaped during the mass breakout in 1997 and controlled by the Imperius Curse Arrested on suspicion of Death Eater activity; kept in custody to make it look like the Ministry was making progress.
Augustus Rookwood Escaped during the January 1996 Mass Breakout; defeated by Aberforth Dumbledore during the Battle of Hogwarts. Spying on the Ministry through his job as an Unspeakable, life sentence; re-imprisoned for participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.
Travers Unknown Murdering the McKinnon family, life sentence; escaped during the January 1996 Mass Breakout.
Muggle-borns Released Muggle-borns were arrested when Voldemort controlled the Ministry
Dolores Umbridge Imprisoned Imprisoned for her crimes against Muggle-borns as head of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission.
Carlotta Pinkstone Unknown Imprisoned for her repeated and deliberate violations of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy.

Etymology

Azkaban-island-uk-cover

Azkaban in 1993.

The name Azkaban is inspired by the Russian town Abakan, which has historically been occupied by various groups of exiles and also draws inspiration from the Prison of Alkatraz off the coast of San Fransisco.

Behind the scenes

  • There is an added scene in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in which the 1996 mass breakout at Azkaban is shown.
  • In the film, Azkaban is also on an island, but the island cannot be seen due to the stormy sea.
  • In the front cover of the adult Bloomsbury edition of the third book, Azkaban is shown to be a rectangular tower, while in the fifth film it is more of a triangular tower.
  • It is likely that if Sirius's status as an Animagus was known, the Ministry would have taken certain precautions to prevent him from transforming to escape. This would mean that Azkaban's security measure is not fully enforced for every situation at all times.
  • Escaping from Azkaban is apparently a very serious crime, punishable by the worse-than-death Dementor's Kiss. Sirius Black was fated to this, if not for him being rescued beforehand, and Bartemius Crouch Jr. suffered from it when his escape became public. Such a punishment is probably because the escaped prisoners in question are too dangerous to be simply reconfined into the prison, as they could easily escape again.
  • Prisoners from Azkaban have their place card numbers tattoed on their neck.

See also

Appearances

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