Some content in this article is derived from information featured in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and, as such, spoilers will be present.
Azkaban is a fortress on an island in the middle of the North Sea. It serves the magical community of Great Britain as a prison for convicted criminals. It was built in the 15th century and it has been in use as a detention facility since 1718. Using certain Charms, Azkaban is hidden from the Muggle world, and is Unplottable.
While other wizarding prisons exist, such as Nurmengard (which was used exclusively to hold its creator Gellert Grindelwald), Azkaban is the only known fortress to be the "official" holding ground for wizarding criminals.
Authorities considered destroying the fortress, but decided against it in fear of the possible revenge of the Dementors or the island itself. Thereafter the island was left alone for years, before the establishment of the International Statute of Secrecy. Because of the impracticality of using small wizarding prisons which could result in bangs, smells and light shows, should victims escape, plans for a purpose-built prison for wizards on some remote Hebridean island were made. However, when Damocles Rowle was elected Minister for Magic in 1718, he insisted on using Azkaban instead, seeing the Dementors as an advantage because using them as guards would save expense, time and trouble. This plan was eventually put into motion and despite protests, Azkaban remained the prison of the wizarding world, mostly because of the complete lack of breakouts and breaches of security.
Although the subsequent Minister Eldritch Diggory, having visited Azkaban and witnessed its horror, fought to find alternatives to the prison or at the very least remove the Dementors, he caught dragon pox in 1747, before they could reach a decision. When Minister Hesphaestus Gore took office, he was responsible for renovating and reinforcing Azkaban. No one else seriously considered closing the prison until the advent of Minister for Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt in 1998.
Azkaban gained a reputation as a horrible place, mostly due to the prison's guards: Dementors. 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).
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.
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.
Before 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 Snr, and replaced by his dying mother using Polyjuice Potion, while Sirius was able to escape by changing into his Animagus form of a dog. The revolt has severely compromised the security, as multiple escapes were made with no more Dementors guarding the prison; the Ministry continued omitting certain facts to maintain their facade of having everything under control, including keeping one breakout a secret.
There is a graveyard outside the wall of Azkaban where the Dementors buried prisoners who died. However, if the dead prisoner has a relative who is not a criminal, the relative in question has the right to pick up the corpse for a proper burial, as Barty Crouch Snr had the right to pick up the body that was disguised as his son, though he chose not to due to fear of being exposed of committing a jailbreak.
Although the prison is 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, indicating the prisoners might have felt depression at mealtimes.
Visits to the island are heavily restricted, as only respectable Ministry officials were noted to be allowed to visit any possible relatives. An example is when Barty Crouch Snr and his wife were allowed a deathbed visit to their imprisoned son due to the former's high status in the government; they took advantage of this privilege to smuggle Barty Jr out of prison. The Minister of Magic is also allowed to visit the prison, as to check out on certain prisoners for their conditions, as Cornelius Fudge did on Sirius Black. Arthur Weasley visited Azkaban on business once.
After the war
- "Under Kingsley Shacklebolt, Azkaban was purged of Dementors. While it remains in use as a prison, the guards are now Aurors, who are regularly rotated from the mainland. There has been no breakout since this new system was introduced."
- —Azkaban after the Second Wizarding War[src]
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 was likely because they had proven to be untrustworthy, and because the depression and madness their presence caused in prisoners was considered inhumane.
Ever since they were removed, Aurors have been guarding the prison, taking turns so that a certain number of Aurors are assigned to stand guard, before leaving to return to fieldwork, with other Aurors taking their place. It is unknown how many surviving Voldemort supporters and Death Eaters were imprisoned in the aftermath. Them aside, any Ministry officials who knowingly and willingly went with Voldemort's ideologies during the time when the Ministry was under his control, mainly the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, were sentenced to Azkaban, the most prominent being Dolores Umbridge, for her crimes against humanity (and, more specifically, Muggle-borns).
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, January 1996[src]
Unknown sentence, known to have been sentenced several times.
|Imprisoned for her repeated and deliberate violations of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy.|
Possible life sentence.
|Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.|
|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||Unknown||Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.|
|Life imprisoment for the torture using an Unforgivable Curse||Torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom with the Cruciatus Curse and murdering Bartemius Crouch Snr (thereby definition, committing patricide), life sentence.|
Possible large sentence for illegally owning a dangerous animal.
|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.|
|Life Sentence||Murdering Gideon and Fabian Prewett, life sentence; re-imprisoned for participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.|
|Sentenced for assaulting a Muggle and breaking the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy.
Died during imprisonment.
|Attacking Muggles without a logical explanation (retaliation for what happened to his daughter Ariana Dumbledore), life sentence.|
|Minor sentence for robbery.
No longer imprisoned, was released after serving his sentence.
|Impersonating an Inferius during a robbery.|
|Marvolo Gaunt||Sentence of 6 months for assault on officials of Ministry of Magic
Released after serving the term.
|Assault on Ministry of Magic officials, served six months.|
|First Sentence: 3 years for assaulting Ministry officials and assaulting a Muggle.
Second Sentence: Life Sentence for multiple homicides of Muggles using an Unforgivable Curse (frame-up).
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.
|Temporary sentence for suspicion in being involved in re-opening of Chamber of Secrets; released after 2 months.
|Framed: Re-opening the Chamber of Secrets, imprisoned as a safety precaution (falsely accused by Tom Marvolo Riddle); released upon proven innocent.|
|Unknown||Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.|
|Life Sentence for allying with Death Eaters and possible crimes with Unforgivable Curses: released in exchange for confidential information.
Released; now deceased.
|Membership in the Death Eaters; released in exchange for the names of several other Death Eaters.|
|Life Sentence for torture using an Unforgivable Curse and multiple homicides using Unforgivable Curses
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.|
|Life Sentence for torture using an Unforgivable Curse and multiple homicides using Unforgivable Curses||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.|
|Life Sentence for torture using an Unforgivable Curse and multiple homicides using Unforgivable Curses.||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.|
|First Sentence: pardoned after convincing the officials that he was under the influence of the Imperius Curse.
Second Sentence: Life sentence for being allied with Death Eaters.
|Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.|
|Life Sentence||Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.|
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.|
|Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.|
|Sentence for 6 months for breaking and entering to Ministry of Magic.
|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.|
|Life Sentence for suspicion of being allied with Death Eaters, brought on false charges to keep the media satisfied.||Arrested on suspicion of Death Eater activity; kept in custody to make it look like the Ministry was making progress.|
|Life Sentence for working as an double agent and being allied with Death Eaters.||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||Life Sentence for mass murder using an Unforgivable Curse.
|Murdering the McKinnon family, life sentence; escaped during the January 1996 Mass Breakout.|
|Muggle-borns||Life Sentence for "theft" of magic, all on false charges, all released after the fall of Voldemort.
Released, or killed in imprisonment.
|Muggle-borns were arrested when Voldemort controlled the Ministry, some did not survive the terrors of Azkaban.|
|Life Sentence for misusing the position in the Ministry of Magic and mass genocide
|Imprisoned for her crimes against Muggle-borns as head of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, life sentence.|
|Tarquin McTavish (presumably)||Unknown||Imprisoned for trapping his Muggle neighbour in a teakettle.|
|Theodore Nott (presumably)||Unknown||Imprisoned for the illegal possession of an unregistered Time-turner.|
|Delphini||Life Sentence for usage of the Unforgivable Curses||Imprisoned for the murder of Craig Bowker Jr and for using a Time-turner to modify the timeline.|
The name Azkaban is inspired by the Hebrew word Abaddon, meaning 'place of destruction' or 'depths of hell' and also draws inspiration from the Prison of Alcatraz off the coast of San Francisco. It may also derive from the name of the Russian town Abakan, which has historically been occupied by various groups of exiles.
Behind the scenes
- In the books, Azkaban is perhaps the most prolific and detailed location to never appear. It was referenced often in the books, but except the cover of one copy of the third book, it never appeared in an image in the books. This is because, unlike the movies, the books were told exclusively through the eyes of Harry Potter, who never visited or had been in Azkaban.
- 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. This scene marks the first and last ever appearance of Azkaban.
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Azkaban is on an island, but the island cannot be seen due to the stormy sea surrounding the tower.
- In the front cover of the adult Bloomsbury edition of the third book, Azkaban is shown to be a rectangular tower, and 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 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, assuming that the protection with Dementors is secure enough.
- Escaping from Azkaban is a serious offence, punishable by the worse-than-death Dementor's Kiss. Sirius Black was fated to this, if he had not been 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 tattooed on their neck and have pictures of them taken with their official number.
- There are no human personnel (guards, officials etc.) in Azkaban other than prisoners. All prisoners, as seen in the films, wear white shirts with grey stripes.This is because Dementors are mentioned to be pure enough to contain the prisoners in the walls of the prison and likeliest no human personnel would manage to bear working in such a depressed place. However, Kingsley Shacklebolt purged Azkaban entirely of Dementors and replaced them with Aurors.
- Access to Azkaban is strictly prohibited to all people except high-ranked Ministry officials, and only they are granted permission to enter the prison and visit prisoners, although this is very rare.
- Azkaban prisoners are brought to prison by Aurors, making Aurors the only officials who regularly visit the prison but only to hand over prisoners (before they replaced the Dementors as guards). Dawlish was said to be escorting prisoners.
- Being in possession of a "true" Time-Turner, one that allows the user to travel back into the past beyond the five-hours safety boundary, is punishable by a sentence in Azkaban, as Theodore Nott was placed in Ministry custody upon being found in possession of a prototype, and Harry Potter noted that Draco Malfoy in possessing the finalised version would have been sentenced as well had the Ministry found out.
- Azkaban escapes
- Azkaban Security Officials and Very Important Wizards
- Unforgivable Curses
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (First mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (play) (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: The Creature Vault (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Pottermore - Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Azkaban"
- ↑ Eldritch Diggory visited Azkaban while he was Minister for Magic, meaning it must have been in 1733 at the earliest and 1747 at the latest.
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban