At least some content in this article is derived from information featured in Hogwarts Legacy, Harry Potter: Magic Awakened, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery.
- "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."
- — Description of Azkaban prison[src]
Azkaban was a fortress on an island in the middle of the North Sea. It served the magical community of Great Britain as a prison for convicted criminals. Azkaban was built in the 15th century and it had been in use as a detention facility since 1718. Using certain Charms, Azkaban was hidden from the Muggle world, and was Unplottable.
As of Eldritch Diggory's visit in the 1730s or 1740s, a graveyard had been established on the island to accommodate those who have died in the prison. Most of the prisoners inside its walls died of despair, having lost the will to live. This was due to the presence of Dementor guards on the island. Dementors drained people of all happiness and left them with their worst memories. Long-term exposure usually led to insanity and even death.
While other wizarding prisons existed, such as Nurmengard (which was used exclusively to hold its creator Gellert Grindelwald's enemies and eventually himself), Azkaban was the only known fortress to be the "official" holding ground for British wizarding criminals.
The island in the North Sea on which the wizard prison was built had never appeared on any map, wizard or Muggle. Its first known resident, Ekrizdis, practised the worst kinds of Dark magic and constructed a fortress on the island, luring Muggle sailors there to torture and murder them. After his death, the various concealment charms placed on the island faded, and the Ministry of Magic became aware of the mysterious site's existence. Those who entered the deserted fortress to investigate discovered, among other horrors, an infestation of Dementors. The wizarding authorities of the time considered destroying the fortress, but, fearing reprisal by the dark entities or the island itself, decided against such action, and the Ministry allowed the sizeable colony to remain; the island was thus left unmolested and unchecked for many years, perhaps decades, until the International Statute of Secrecy was established.
Due to the impracticality of using small, local prisons, which could result in bangs, smells and light shows if inmates escaped, plans for a single, purpose-built wizarding prison on some remote Hebridean island were made at the passing of the International Statute of Secrecy. However, when Damocles Rowle was elected Minister for Magic in 1718, he insisted on using Azkaban instead, seeing the Dementors as a potential asset: putting them to work as guards would save expense, time, and lives. This plan was eventually put into motion and, despite protests, Azkaban remained the magical prison of Great Britain until the end of the Second Wizarding War, primarily due to its seemingly zero breakout rate. From that point on, the Dementors served the Ministry as the guards of Azkaban, as the arrangement allowed them to feed on the emotions of the prisoners within its walls. Opposition to the use of Azkaban did manifest, however.
Somewhere between 1733 and 1747 Minister Eldritch Diggory visited Azkaban, and was horrified at the inhumane levels of despair and insanity that the Dementors induced in the prisoners. He formed a committee to find alternative solutions or mitigating measures, the least of which was to remove the Dementors; even this, however, met opposition from those who feared a mainland invasion if the Dementors were deprived of their food source. Diggory died of Dragon Pox while in office, and thus the campaign to find an alternative to Azkaban's Dementors stalled. Reversing his predecessor's position, when Minister Hesphaestus Gore took office, the prison was renovated and reinforced. No serious opposition to the continued use of the prison arose in the next few centuries, and no Minister considered closing the prison until the Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt began major reforms of the entire Ministry in 1998.
Since 1717, using any of the three Unforgivable Curses on another human being has carried the 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).
It was during the First Wizarding War that Bartemius Crouch Senior, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the time, sentenced many suspects to Azkaban without a trial. While this allowed many Death Eaters to be imprisoned without giving them a chance to escape by manipulating courts, it also resulted in wrongful imprisonment of innocents, such as Sirius Black. Many citizens of the magical community supported this move, due to the terror of Lord Voldemort gripping the nation; it was only when the war ended and peace began to sink in did people saw Crouch's actions were too harsh. It was also during the first war that Alastor Moody, famous Auror, captured many Death Eaters, which resulted in "half the cells in Azkaban are full thanks to him".
During the Second Wizarding War, in which the Death Eaters took over the Ministry, the prison also fell into their usage. They released all of their comrades and falsely cleared them, while sentencing many innocent Muggle-borns and other enemies of theirs to Azkaban under sham trials and trumped-up charges. Also, the Dementors were given more areas to reign upon than simply guarding the inmates. Some Muggle-borns did not survive the ordeal in Azkaban, a reason why Dolores Umbridge was given a life sentence after the Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort were defeated.
Azkaban earned a reputation as a horrific place, mostly due to the Dementors. Because of these creatures, most prisoners eventually went insane and slowly died under the Dementors' depressive influence, having lost their will to live and even stopped eating. Even those who survived to be released would remain traumatised by their experiences within the prison: Marvolo Gaunt was left heavily weakened during his six-month sentence, which may have been a contributing factor to his early death, while Rubeus Hagrid could remember how miserable he was there even long after his release. Even Sirius Black and Bellatrix Lestrange's physical appearances were telltale signs of their deterioration within the prison, losing most of their great aristocratic looks. The Dementors' primary concern was their supply of human emotions to feed upon and, disregarding the prisoners' release terms, seemed unhappy to let them go. However, many denizens of the wizarding community remained happy that it was the Dementors who guard the prisoners, believing that they were what kept these dangerous people inside the remote fortress. On the other hand, there had been many who opposed the idea of keeping Lord Voldemort's most dangerous followers in the hands of such dark creatures, fearing that their loyalty could easily be swayed to Voldemort's side through bargains of which the Ministry could not compete with, perhaps one day handing the prisoners the key to their unjust freedom.
Being in possession of a "true" Time-Turner, one that allowed the user to travel back into the past beyond the five-hours safety boundary, was 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. It is unclear if the relevant laws directly referred to uncontrolled time-manipulation, or if the ban was on using experimental artefacts of great power in general.
There was most likely an Anti-Apparition jinx on Azkaban; if there hadn't been, wizards and witches could simply have Apparated from the prison to the outside world. However, since it is debatable that most witches and wizards needed a wand to Apparate, this might be irrelevant, as none of the prisoners maintained possession of their wands. Most of the prisoners would barely have had enough strength to Apparate anyway, as the mere presence of Dementors, particularly in large numbers, inhibited the use of magical powers.
Before the Dementors' revolt, the only people ever to escape the prison were Barty Crouch Jnr and Sirius Black, in 1982 and 1993, respectively. Barty Crouch Jnr 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. Another mass breakout occurred in 1997 (most likely in the summer) but was covered up by the Ministry for political reasons.
There was a graveyard on the island outside the wall of Azkaban where the Dementors buried prisoners who had died. However, if the dead prisoner had a relative who was not a criminal, the relative in question had 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 was 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.
Visits to the island were heavily restricted, as only respectable Ministry officials were noted to be allowed to visit with 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 Jnr out of prison. The Minister for Magic was also allowed to visit the prison, as to check out on certain prisoners on their conditions, as Cornelius Fudge did on Sirius Black. Arthur Weasley visited Azkaban on business once.
Azkaban prisoners were brought to the prison by Aurors, making Aurors the only officials who regularly visited the prison but only to hand over prisoners (before they replaced the Dementors as guards). John Dawlish was one official said to have been escorting prisoners during the Death Eater's reign over the Ministry.
Escaping from Azkaban was 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 Jnr suffered from it when his escape became public. Such a punishment was probably because the escaped prisoners in question were too dangerous to be simply re-confined into the prison, as they could easily escape again.
- "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 had been guarding the prison, taking turns so that a certain number of Aurors were 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). The new security system had proven effective, as no breakouts had occurred since it was implemented, until 2020 in which Rodolphus Lestrange escaped a third time, to report to his wife's illegitimate daughter about her heritage and destiny.
Known Azkaban inmates
- "The Ministry of Magic announced late last night that there has been a mass breakout from Azkaban. Speaking to reporters in his private office, Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic, confirmed that ten high-security prisoners escaped in the early hours of yesterday evening, and that he has already informed the Muggle Prime Minister of the dangerous nature of these individuals. "We find ourselves, most unfortunately, in the same position we were two and a half years ago when the murderer Sirius Black escaped," said Fudge last night. "Nor do we think the two breakouts are unrelated. An escape of this magnitude suggests outside help, and we must remember that Black, as the first person ever to break out of Azkaban, would be ideally placed to help others follow in his footsteps. We think it likely that these individuals, who include Black’s cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, have rallied around Black as their leader. We are, however, doing all we can to round up the criminals and beg the magical community to remain alert and cautious. On no account should any of these individuals be approached.""
- — Cornelius Fudge interview to the Daily Prophet, January 1996[src]
|Imprisoned for her repeated and deliberate violations of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy.||Unknown|
Unknown sentence, known to have been sentenced several times.
|Avery||Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.||Unknown|
Possible life sentence.
|Framed: imprisoned without trial after being falsely accused of murdering Peter Pettigrew and twelve Muggles, betraying the Potters and serving Lord Voldemort, life sentence; now vindicated.||Escaped (only actual unassisted escape from Azkaban while the Dementors were guarding it); now deceased|
|Jane Court||Unknown crime, served a year or less.||Released|
|Patricia Rakepick||Imprisoned after her defeat in the Sunken Vault for the murder of Rowan Khanna with the Killing Curse, using the Cruciatus Curse on Merula Snyde in the Buried Vault and for being member of the enigmatic and powerful organisation R.||Life Sentence for the use of the Unforgivable Curses.|
|Trapping his Muggle neighbour in a teakettle.||Unknown|
|Crabbe||Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.||Unknown|
|Torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom with the Cruciatus Curse.||Smuggled out by his parents; later received the Dementor's Kiss|
|Crispin Cronk||Had pet Sphinxes in his backyard.||Deceased|
Possible lengthy sentence for illegally owning a dangerous animal.
|Mrs Crouch||Served time in place of her son, Barty Crouch Jnr.||Died during imprisonment, disguised as Barty Crouch Jnr|
|Murdering Gideon and Fabian Prewett, life sentence; re-imprisoned for participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.||Life sentence|
Escaped in the January 1996 Mass Breakout; later defeated by Filius Flitwick in battle (either dead or re-imprisoned)
|Attacking Muggles without a logical explanation (retaliation for what happened to his daughter Ariana Dumbledore), life sentence.||Sentenced for assaulting three Muggles and breaking the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy.
Died during imprisonment.
|Impersonating an Inferius during a robbery.||Minor sentence for robbery.|
No longer imprisoned, was released after serving his sentence.
|Marvolo Gaunt||Assault on Ministry of Magic officials, served six months.||Released after serving the term.|
|First term: Improper use of magic on a Muggle and assault on Ministry officials, served three years.
Second term: Framed by Tom Riddle for murdering the Riddle family, life sentence.
|Died while serving life sentence. True memories retrieved before he died.|
|Framed: Re-opening the Chamber of Secrets, imprisoned as a safety precaution (falsely accused by Tom Marvolo Riddle); released upon proven innocent.||Released after two months.|
|Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.||Unknown|
|Membership in the Death Eaters; tortured Muggles. Sentenced to likely life imprisonment.||Released after turning in other Death Eaters; now deceased.|
|Torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom into insanity through the Cruciatus Curse, torturing and killing Muggles and wizards, life sentence.||Escaped during the January 1996 Mass Breakout; now deceased.|
|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.||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.|
Escaped during the January 1996 Mass Breakout; may have been re-imprisoned after the Battle of Hogwarts.
Escaped again around 2020 to notify Delphini of her heritage.
|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.
Escaped from Azkaban in 1997; later pardoned.
|Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.||Life Sentence|
Escaped from Azkaban in 1997; defeated by Rubeus Hagrid during the Battle of Hogwarts, re-imprisoned.
|Life Sentence||Captured before 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.|
Escaped during the 1996 Mass Breakout; current status unknown.
|Participating in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries as a Death Eater.||Life Sentence|
|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.||Sentence for 6 months for breaking and entering to Ministry of Magic.|
|Arrested on suspicion of Death Eater activity; kept in custody to make it look like the Ministry was making progress.||Sentence to unknown period of time for suspicion of being allied with Death Eaters, brought on false charges to keep the media satisfied.|
Escaped during the mass breakout in 1997 and controlled by the Imperius Curse.
|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.||Life Sentence for working as an double agent and being allied with Death Eaters.|
|Travers||Murdering the McKinnon family, life sentence; escaped during the January 1996 Mass Breakout.||Life Sentence for mass murder using an Unforgivable Curse.|
|Unidentified Muggle-borns||Muggle-borns were arrested when Voldemort controlled the Ministry, some did not survive the terrors of Azkaban.||Life Sentence for "theft" of magic, all on false charges, all released after the fall of Voldemort.|
Released, or died in imprisonment.
|Dolores Umbridge||Imprisoned for her crimes against Muggle-borns as head of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, life sentence.||Life Sentence for misusing the position in the Ministry of Magic and mass genocide|
|Page siblings' mother||Imprisoned for supposedly being in the Nocturnal Order of Tricks and Exhibitions and violating the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy in front of Muggle police.||Unknown|
|Delphini||Imprisoned for the murder of Craig Bowker Junior with the Killing Curse, the torture of Scorpius Malfoy with the Cruciatus Curse and for using a Time-turner to modify the timeline.||Life Sentence for usage of the Unforgivable Curses|
The name Azkaban is inspired by the Hebrew word Abaddon, meaning 'place of destruction' or 'depths of hell'. It also draws inspiration from Alcatraz Prison, built on an island off the coast of San Francisco, known for being inescapable. It may also derive from the name of the Russian town Abakan, which has historically been occupied by various groups of exiles.
- Azkaban escapes
- Azkaban Security Officials and Very Important Wizards
- Nurmengard Castle
- Unforgivable Curses
Behind the scenes
- In the books, Azkaban is perhaps the most 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 almost 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 castle-like fortress, but in the fifth film it is more of a triangular monolithic 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.
- Prisoners of 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.) shown 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 enough to contain the prisoners in the walls of the prison and likely no human personnel would manage to bear working in such a depressing place. However, Kingsley Shacklebolt purged Azkaban entirely of Dementors and replaced them with Aurors.
- As being an unregistered Animagus is a offence worthy of imprisonment, this also enforces the possibility of Azkaban taking special precautions to Animagi only if they are aware of their unauthorised ability, as Sirius was not given such a precaution.
- There is a song by Alfons called Ganjaman which references Azkaban, in which the person that the song is about is the "biggest man" from there.
- 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: Characters of the Magical World (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- Wizarding World
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: The Creature Vault (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Magic Awakened
- Hogwarts Legacy
Notes and references
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Azkaban" at Wizarding World
- 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 Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- J.K. Rowling Web Chat
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 5, Side Quest "Yer a Prefect!"
- Jane Court was still attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in June 1987 and was released from Azkaban by September 1988.
- J. K. Rowling's official site
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter: Magic Awakened (see video)