Azkaban was a large establishment that served as a high-security prison for the magical community of Britain. Living in Azkaban was considered very scary and dangerous as it was guarded by strange creatures called Dementors.

The Definitive Glossary for Harry Potter

Azkaban Prison is said to have been built in the 15th century and was the only known prison used to house British criminals of the magical community. It rested on an island in the North Sea and was heavily guarded, with no entry for unwanted visitors. Most people hated going there because it was filled with Dementors who guarded the prison. Dementors were strange creatures that had no discernible body but had a cloak-like appearance. They fed on the happiness and hope of people around them and therefore made people only feel sorrow and despair. 

Azkaban started being used as a prison in 1718. It was unplottable for anyone and not visible to Muggles. Wands were banned from Azkaban as it could lead to dangerous consequences due to the presence of criminals. Flying devices and many other devices or machines were also banned from being taken into Azkaban and had to be left at the entrance. While there were several crimes that could cause someone to be imprisoned in Azkaban, even using the Unforgivable Curses was considered to be an offense worthy of being sent to Azkaban, although there was this one time that Aurors were allowed to use this curse on Death Eaters by Barty Crouch during the Second Wizarding War.


The term Azkaban mostly comes from the Hebrew word Abaddon which means ‘depths of hell’ or ‘place of destruction’. It is also similar to the Alcatraz prison, a name that sounds quite similar to Azkaban, and is also a prison built on an island near the San Francisco coast famous for being inescapable. 

History Of Azkaban

Ekrizdis, a Dark Wizard, is believed to be the first known inhabitant of the island on which Azkaban stands. It had never been seen on any muggle or magical map ever before. After Ekrizdis started living on the island, he performed a lot of dark magic and built the fortress that later became Azkaban to lure in Muggle sailors and murder them in cold blood, probably to use their corpses for some dark magic. After his death, the concealment charms protecting the island from other magical eyes came undone and the Ministry of Magic soon interfered with this place after knowing that it existed.

The people exploring the site discovered a hoard of dementors residing in the fortress. They immediately demanded the destruction of the place. However, fearing some form of ‘magical’ retaliation from the island or the Dementors, the site was kept intact until the International Statute of Secrecy finally required this place to be interfered with. It was finally decided that this place would serve as a high-security prison for British wizards and witches who had committed crimes. It was Damocles Rowle, the Minister of Magic at that time, that proposed the usage of Azkaban as a prison. Despite protests, it was eventually sanctioned to be the prison for keeping criminals off the magical community. Somewhere around the 1730s, Eldritch Diggory, the then Minister of Magic, visited the island, and by that time, a graveyard had been created to bury the inmates who had died in the jail. 

Eldritch Diggory was influenced heavily by his visit and demanded immediate changes to the island, the top priority being removing the Dementors. However, Diggory eventually died from Dragon Pox while he was the Minister, and it was eventually decided to keep the island intact. Furthermore, after the new Minister Hesphaestus Gore came to power, the prison was renovated, and the Dementors were given the duty of guarding the prison. This rule would remain until as long as 1997 when after the Second Wizarding War, the new Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt banished Dementors off Azkaban forever. 

Life In Azkaban

Life in Azkaban was believed to be very depressing. Most prisoners who came there would go insane in a span of a few days as the Dementors would suck all the joy and hope out of them. However, many prisoners were also known to make it alive out of the place. For instance, Sirius Black was able not to go insane completely as he was capable of transforming himself into a dog whenever needed. Several other prisoners, including Bellatrix Lestrange and the other Death Eaters who escaped, also seemed unperturbed by their stay in Azkaban.


There hadn’t been any escapes from Azkaban until 1982, which was the year that Barty Crouch Jr escaped from prison with the help of his father. This event only came to light later as nobody knew Barty Crouch Jr had escaped. Eleven years after this, Sirius Black escaped the depths of hell in Azkaban. It is revealed later that Sirius escaped after he found a photograph of Scabbers in the Daily Prophet from the time of the Weasleys’ trip to Egypt. Despite suspicions that Remus Lupin helped Sirius escape, it was also revealed that this was not true. Professor Lupin had no clue about Sirius’s innocence, and he only became skeptical after he saw Peter Pettigrew on the Marauder’s Map. Another mass breakout from Azkaban occurred when around ten prisoners were punished with life imprisonment and escaped from Azkaban. The prisoners included the likes of Bellatrix Lestrange, Rodolphus Lestrange, and several other Death Eaters.

Appearances in the Harry Potter Series

Azkaban is first mentioned in the Harry Potter series when Rubeus Hagrid is taken there after being falsely accused of unleashing the monster in the Chamber of Secrets. He is escorted away from his hut by Cornelius Fudge in Albus Dumbledore’s presence. Interestingly, Harry and Ron are in the house, too, under the Invisibility Cloak. Hagrid is taken away to Azkaban, and later, after Tom Riddle and the Basilisk are revealed to be present in the Chamber of Secrets, Hagrid is sent back to Hogwarts from Azkaban. 

The prison appears for the first time when Sirius Black escapes from it in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanHe is believed to be hunting down Harry Potter, but eventually, it is revealed that he is actually looking for Peter Pettigrew, who betrayed James and Lily Potter by revealing their location under the Fidelius Charm to Lord Voldemort. Interestingly, the Dementors make their first appearance in this book as well. They are in constant search for Sirius Black, who is believed to be the first inmate ever to escape Azkaban. It is later revealed that he is an unregistered Animagus and, therefore, could easily escape after transforming himself into a dog. As Dementors cannot sense beings and can just sense their souls, they couldn’t sense the presence of a dog escaping the prison. As Azkaban has no other serious guards, he could easily escape the place. He is almost about to be punished with the Dementor’s Kiss for crimes he didn’t commit, but Hermione uses her Time-Turner, and she and Harry together save Sirius from getting punished.

Azkaban later appears again when talked about Barty Crouch Jr and how he escaped it by letting his mother drink the Polyjuice Potion to disguise herself as him, and he drank it to disguise himself as his mother. Furthermore, the Dementors were unable to tell them apart as they only sense the presence of souls, nothing else. Soon after, ten inmates from Azkaban are said to have escaped, including Bellatrix Lestrange, her husband Rodolphus Lestrange, and several other Death Eaters. After losing to Harry Potter, his friends, and the Order of the Phoenix, Lucius Malfoy is sent to Azkaban at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceDraco Malfoy takes revenge on Harry for this by kicking him in the face. 

Azkaban appears many other times in the Harry Potter series and also during the height of the Second Wizarding War when many Muggle-born witches and wizards are sent there by the Ministry, which is indirectly in control of Voldemort. Also, Dolores Umbridge is sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban for her crimes against Muggle-borns.


Is Azkaban based off Alcatraz?

Azkaban prison does have a lot of similarities with Alcatraz prison. While Azkaban is a fictional prison to host criminals of Magical Britain, Alcatraz is a real-world prison built to be inescapable. One primary similarity between Alcatraz and Azkaban is that they are both prisons that are on an island. This adds to their inescapable nature. Secondly, both their names are similar sounding. That too signals that they are similar and therefore, it may be true that J. K. Rowling based Azkaban off Alcatraz.

Who caused the Azkaban breakout?

It is believed that the re-emergence of Lord Voldemort was the prime cause of the breakout in Azkaban to come to fruition. After he returned, he had a discussion with the Dementors of Azkaban and promised them chaos and sorrow unlike anything ever before, and this led to their strike and eventual outing from guard duties at Azkaban. Finally, Bellatrix Lestrange and several other Death Eaters broke out from Azkaban and joined Voldemort’s ranks.

Can Muggles see Azkaban?

No, Muggles have never been able to see Azkaban, let alone plot the island on any map. Azkaban is off-limits for any Muggle and just like many other magical institutions like Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic, there are several incantations, protection charms and warning signs kept around the place to prevent it from ever being accessible to Muggles. So, Muggles cannot see the island nor the prison of Azkaban.

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