Being in a prison cell in your dream means that you are feeling trapped, restricted, suffocated, or frustrated in some area of your real waking life. These are just some of the emotional states people enter when they dream about being in jail.
It doesn’t matter whether you dream about yourself in a jail cell, a county holding facility, a state penitentiary, a federal prison, or even just behind strange bars. There is no difference. Your waking life might be miserable to the point that you start having these dreams.
Dreams about jails suggest your true feelings about where you are in your life, the quality of your decisions, the people that surround you, and pretty much your day-to-day reality.
We should all consider jail dreams as warning signs.
Please understand that dreams are the outlet of your sleeping consciousness to let you know what you may be overlooking, actively avoiding, or even denying in your waking life.
The Difference Between Waking Life and Sleeping Consciousness
There is such a thing as a conscious and subconscious mind. You navigate the world normally using your conscious mind. But just because your unconscious mind is active in other areas of your life—particularly in your dreams—doesn’t mean it’s less important.
Pay close attention to the sign you receive from certain aspects of your overall consciousness when you dream.
When it comes to jail dreams, a detailed dream interpretation may portend that there might be upcoming problems in your work, your love life, your relationships, your family, or your business.
It’s as if you are trying to see the best of everything and looking at things from the best light possible with your waking mind. There’s nothing wrong with this. A little optimism can go a long way.
But there are many aspects to our consciousness, and they are very sensitive. They may be picking up on signals that you would rather wish away or you actively deny.
A dream about prison or jail suggests that you should be careful when making decisions in all areas of your life.
Jail Dreams and What They Actually Mean
Dreaming About Going to Jail Most Common Meaning
When you see yourself in the process of going to jail in your dream, it can indicate that you are facing so much difficulty in your life that you see it as a foregone conclusion. You can see the whole process play out in front of you—much like someone going to jail.
It usually starts with someone being caught by the police, being brought up on charges, and going through the court system. This is where the prosecutor presents a case, and a judge or a jury hears your case. You have your day in court—this is the process that the system owes you.
But after everything is said and done, and you are found guilty, off to jail you go. From there, you go on a journey. You get on a bus. You get taken to an intake facility, and then you meet your cellmate. From there, it could be a nightmare, or it can just be a bad dream.
You see this all play out when you have dreams of going to jail.
This is precisely the kind of emotional state you have when it comes to other areas of your life—for example, your job, business, or relationship.
Dreams About Imprisonment Portend Unhappiness About the Future
You know that you’re not all that happy with whom you have selected, but you just go through the motions. They say the things that they normally say. They take you for granted, or they do things that really get under your skin.
You see this play out again and again. Before you know it, you feel like saying, “this is what I deserve. This is all who I am. There’s really nothing I can do to change it.”
Just like seeing somebody going to jail, you know the conclusion because you’ve seen it before. You’ve gone through it. There is no surprise.
Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. Months turn into years.
Dream Interpretation of Being Sent to Jail
If you dream about yourself going through the process instead of watching incarceration take place, you might be in for a surprise.
Interestingly enough, when you are the one sent to jail in your dream, it can have a positive meaning. It means that someone—whether a parent, a sibling, a coworker, or a partner—will make you feel happy. How can this be?
Well, pay attention to the process. In many cases, to put somebody in jail means to make sure that person is clothed, housed, protected, fed—not just one day, not just one week, but for life.
In other words, when you are the one going to jail in the dream, you have to pay attention to the different systems that have to be in place for you to be in that concrete womb called prison. When your psyche is sending you this sign, it can mean that there are certain systems in your life that line up that you may be unappreciative of or you take for granted.
It is not a surprise that when people dream of being sent to jail, they wake up in a cold sweat. Obviously, they don’t want that to happen.
But, at the same time, they breathe a sigh of relief. It’s as if they see their lives from a new perspective. It turns out that they have so many things going for them.
Jails Dreams Encourage the Exploration of Our Creative Side
Another meaning of this dream image is that your ideas are finally being appreciated, and this can lead to you having the space and the time you need to take control of your future fully. How?
You have the time to entertain your ideas. Your body may be imprisoned, but it might just be the break you need to let your imagination and sense of possibility soar fully. You shift your focus to what is truly important.
Please understand that throughout history, a lot of the world’s best literary, as well as political works, were written in prison. People are no longer being chased. People are no longer taking care of their nine to five.
Instead, they have the time and the resources needed in one place to really get all the things that they’re trying to say from their minds to the printed word.
This is how you turn a negative situation into a positive one. Your sleeping consciousness mind is helping you decide your future.
Oftentimes, it just needs a break. You just need to stop chasing your tail, taking care of putting food on the table, or worrying about the rent or mortgage so that you can engage in your life of mind.
The downside to this dream is that you also feel that your will is trapped.
As supportive as some people around you may be, you look at your relationship with them, and you feel limited. Part of you thinks that they are holding you back. You want to soar, and you know you have wings, but you don’t want to leave your partner behind—they’re kind of like a heavy load around your neck.
Here you are, finally having the space and the time to explore your mind, but you are in prison.
Prison Dream Where You Are in a Jail Cell
When you imagine yourself in a jail cell, this can mean that one or more of your family members are neglecting you or even flat-out disowning you.
This isn’t as dramatic as it may seem. Deep down inside, these people still love you. Otherwise, they won’t be in your life. But there is a part of you that you feel they don’t appreciate.
Maybe you have hopes, dreams, and visions for your future, but they just go through the motions of dismissing it or patting you on the head and saying, “that’s nice. That’s great that you have that.” But they don’t really take it seriously.
It’s as if they cannot share your joy or adventure in what you are doing. You’re just another face in the wall for them or another obligation they have to take care of. This is especially true with daughters and their fathers.
Their old man may be so preoccupied with putting food on the table that the daughters don’t really feel their fathers care for them or are emotionally available to them.
When they hurt, when they feel lonely, or when they feel unappreciated, it’s as if dad was absent. He’s there physically, but emotionally, he’s somewhere else because he’s so tired.
This can feel so constricting on an emotional level, and it’s no surprise that when we feel trapped inside a room, we want to push against the walls. We want to break out. It shouldn’t come as a shock that many children intentionally look for significant others that seem like the complete opposite of their parents.
A lot of young girls try to marry men who are completely different from their fathers. Later on, as it turns out, they discover that the one they picked actually has more in common with their dad than they initially thought. Funny how that works.
This is a recurring theme when it comes to the dream symbology of a jail cell. The more you feel stuck, the more you want to quit.
But the problem is that you cannot escape jail. If you feel restricted inside, do you think just changing the locale or your geographic location will give you that sensation of freedom? Think again.
As the devil in the book Pilgrim’s Pride said, “wherever I go, hell is with me.”
The problem is not geography or four physical walls. The problem is what you choose to hang on to inside.
In the Western imagination, jail symbolizes an internal feeling of conflict. You may be in conflict with your family, friends, or neighbors. But, more fundamentally, you may be in conflict with yourself.
Who you imagine yourself to be is often in stark contrast with who you really are.
Being in Jail Dreaming About Being Sentenced
When you dream about yourself being in jail seeing yourself being sentenced—much like having two dreams at a time—the dream meaning indicates that you’ve done or said something before that you’re guilty about.
You can’t quite put your finger on it, but there’s a part of you that just wants to make things right. For example, you may have to confess, admit to things, or you just want to cleanse yourself of what you’ve done. You can’t quite figure it out, but it hurts you nonetheless.
But here’s the problem: there’s a big difference between feeling bad because you got caught and were punished and really feeling bad about the fact that you did that thing, and you harmed other people.
It’s not much different from saying to somebody, “I’m sorry you got hurt, or you feel hurt.” That’s not an apology. Know the difference.
Either way, when you are walking around with this heavy psychological and emotional load, you feel you are in a restrictive situation. You can’t move on. You are imprisoned by your past. If you’re not careful, you might define yourself by it and restrict yourself based on what you fear.
The good news is that you can’t escape your past unless you realize that your past doesn’t own you.
You can always choose to be a new person today. But for that to happen, you have to take ownership. You have to take stock of the bad decisions that you’ve made and the hurt that you have caused—not just to others but also to yourself. Take ownership of all of that.
How would you know you’re making progress? When you stop pointing the finger.
What Does It Mean When You Dream About Seeing Your Friend in a Jail Cell?
When you imagine yourself seeing your friend in jail or seeing your friend going to jail, this can indicate some semblance of freedom.
The human mind often works in terms of complementary symbols or contrasting symbols. In this case, seeing these images indicates that part of your sleeping consciousness senses that your recent run of “bad luck” is coming to an end.
This is usually your optimistic side. This is the part of you that sees the glass half-full instead of half-empty. Pay attention to this part of you. For the longest time, the reason why you’re feeling so stuck and frustrated in your life is that you keep defining “realism” the same way as pessimism.
Either way, when you see your friend going to jail or being in jail, it means that a better relationship with you is in the offing. It can also mean that people are looking at you as a trustworthy friend—someone who will reliably be there for them when it’s crunch time.
If anything, this type of dream suggests that you are becoming a better person and engaging in interpersonal intimacy on a deep level and emotionally connect.
However, if you see that image of your friend in jail, and you can’t help but feel trapped—like you can’t leave—then this may indicate that you don’t have the same feelings about your friend as you did before.
This is especially troublesome if whoever you see going to jail is somebody you are romantically involved with. The love might not be there, and there’s a part of you that just wants to escape.
Dreaming About Coming Home After Being Locked Up in Jail or Imprisoned
If you dream of yourself as being locked up or imprisoned for a long time, and now you’re going home and getting your freedom back, this indicates that there is an internal change that you are slowly becoming aware of. You notice that there are certain areas of your real life that you’ve always wanted to change—you’re not limited anymore, and things are beginning to take a turn for the better.
Either you are attaining the freedom that you’re craving for, or you feel that you’re more effective in certain areas of your waking life. Regardless of the specific situation, a prison dream suggests that your reality is getting better.
It can also be interpreted as hopes being fulfilled—both conscious hopes, as well as unconscious hopes.
Dreaming About Having Fights in Prison
When you imagine yourself having fights in prison with other inmates, it means that you are fighting the part of yourself that wants to stay in prison. Believe it or not, people live their lives the way they do because, somehow and in some way, it makes sense to them.
I know that sounds absurd, especially if the person is complaining day and night about how messed up their life is. But if you think about it long enough, there’s a reason why that person is stuck, and it’s not because they’re stupid. It’s not because they’re lazy.
Somehow, something is working for them, and that’s why they’re there. And if you’re really honest with yourself, you’re doing the same thing.
When you imagine yourself having fights in prison, you struggle with the part of yourself that wants to stay where you are.
If you don’t want to stay stagnant in real life anymore, you want to become whoever you intended to become, or you have better plans for yourself, you have to overcome your old self. This person is not going to go away easily. They will put up a fight.
The dream meaning of prison fights can also mean that a part of yourself that you have long relied on may be coming back because it plays a big role in your transition to the next level of your life. It can also be connected with a dream about beating someone up.
Believe me; changes are never easy. Oftentimes, we have to go through internal convulsions before we can see external changes.
If A Girl or a Woman Dreams About Being in Jail
When a woman dreams about being in jail, it can mean that she will be getting married in the near future. This, of course, takes place in a specific context.
Many women look at marriage as a form of escape from their struggles.
Maybe they’re a single mom with a kid, and times are tough, so she gets hitched to a guy who can provide a better life. Alternatively, she could be single but also have a really nasty home life—maybe her parents are always fighting, or her mother or her father always tells her that she’s shit and won’t amount to much.
Whatever the case may be, many people get married to escape their problems. Little do they know that they’re going from one prison to another.
If you’re a female and you’re having this type of dream, your sleeping consciousness is telling you, “stop. Wait a minute. Are you sure you want to go through with this? You already feel trapped and frustrated in one area of your life. Do you really want to replicate that in another area?”
“There’s also a chance that you’ll make things even worse for yourself, especially if you have children or plan on having kids.”
You have to understand that as much as our parents love us, they can also trap and smother us. Either they try to have us live the lives that they’ve always wanted to live, or they impose all sorts of rules that are reflections of their insecurities.
Be clear as to what exactly you are escaping and how you plan to escape. Otherwise, you just might make your problems even worse.
Dreaming About a Prison Cell That Is Open
When you see prison cells with open doors, it means that you see opportunities in your life. This is different from breaking out; the doors are already open for you.
This dream means that your past stubbornness is finally giving way. Be ready to take the opportunity once it presents itself.
The Final Word on Dreaming of Being in Jail
Oftentimes, your big break is already in front of you. The only difference is that your eyes are finally open. You chose to see things going on around you as opportunities, whereas previously, you looked at them as problems.
Also, please keep in mind that your dream doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Most of the time, you’ll have dreamed about at least one similar or related dream that you should also take into consideration when searching for the meaning of your jail dream.
A lot of people who dream about jail time report dreaming about breathing underwater too. If you’re in the same position, it might be useful for you to look up the latest articles on breathing underwater dream interpretation.
Dream Example #1
The smell of urine filled the tiny cell. I sat down squatted on the ground. Eight of us were packed in this tiny cell, and breathing fresh air became impossible.
The only cloth on me is my boxer, just like the rest of us. The cold floor was becoming unbearable. The pang of hunger in my stomach added to my sorry state.
I thought about my parents and my siblings. Have they gotten the information about my arrest?
Will they know where I am at the moment. All these questions raced through my mind, without any hope of an answer. I felt very sorry for myself and tears formed in my eyes. I was like a scared rat, lonely and afraid of the faith that would befall it.
The police had arrested us because of a peaceful protest that was hijacked by hoodlums. Then it became violent and police had come in to arrest us.
Unfortunately for us, we were protesting against police brutality and extortion of young men on the streets. It had been a recurring issue and many people have been a victim.
I was a student union leader in school. We had just finished our exam and still hanging around in school before I travel home.
When the protest started, it was just a group of a friend whose friend had been killed by a police officer that started it.
Then gradually it gained momentum and I also joined the protest with my friends. We wanted to fight for the freedom of our young men and women in the hand of the police.
I felt the bite of a mosquito on my cheek. I snapped out of my daydream.
I slapped my face in a bid to kill it but it had gone. It was 5 pm, and the mosquitoes have started flying around and looking for their next victim.
I woke up. A mosquito had just bitten me.
Dream Example #2
It was 12:30 am at the Area B command Police headquarters. The police officer stared at my face. He was trying to pick out to bring out anything that could nail me.
But I was careful to answer all of his questions. This is a dangerous path, and I need to tread carefully.
“How did you know James?” he asked a second time.
“I knew him since I was very young. We attended the same elementary school “I answered.
“That should be how many years ago?”
I paused for a while, using my fingers to do a quick calculation.
“Seventeen years ago” I finally responded.
I nodded my head.
“That is a long time. So I want to presume you know him better than the police?”
I didn’t respond to his last statement. Something was not right about this statement.
“We lost contact about seven years ago until recently “I quickly added.
“Tell me all you know about him”
An officer that interrogated me earlier asked me the same question. But since this is a serious case, I was left without much choice.
I told him about what I know about James while we were in elementary school. James had been a very brilliant boy, and very quiet. Most teachers find it hard to believe such a boy rarely talks in class is such a genius. He has never scored any below Ninety-five percent throughout the period we were together.
“I eventually ran into him about seven years ago. He told me he is a software developer and works as a freelancer”.
“Is that what he told you?” he asked suspiciously.
“Yes sir” I responded staring back at him.
“And you believed him?”
“I have no reason to doubt him”
“This is a national security issue that you are involved in. And it is in your best interest to let us know everything “.
My heart sank in fear. Even though I never had anything to do with crime, yet I was livid with fear.
He stood up suddenly. Looked at me and walked toward the iron door, before he turned to face me.
“Your name and contact was found on some of the documents that were seized from his house”
He watched as I opened my mouth with disbelief. This is getting out of hand. I was called on the phone to come to the Police station for brief questioning. And I had obeyed without much thought about it.
I have not done anything to warrant any arrest and so I came voluntarily.
Now, I wish I hadn’t come at all. I have been at the police station for more than fifteen houses in this office. And the questions had turned from ordinary questions into an interrogation.
I didn’t know what to make of this. I needed a lawyer badly.
The courtroom was filled to the last seat. Journalists and cameramen were outside, waiting patiently for the decision of the judge.
The state has filed that I will be remanded in prison, pending the outcome of the investigation.
My lawyer had countered that I have no case to answer. The court was in session, and the atmosphere was charged. I was standing inside the dock waiting to answer questions from the state attorney.
“Can you please tell this honorable court your name?”
“My name is Johnson Adebayo” I answered.
“What is your relationship with James Kolade?” He asked sternly.
“He used to be my friend” I answered carefully.
“So why are you here, if he is no longer your friend?”
“I think the police are making a mistake sir”
“Mr. Johnson Adebayo, you were arrested in an investigation regarding a notorious terrorist “.
He paused and watched my reaction for any signs. I was unmoved by his statement.
“What did you know about James?” I gave full details about how I met James.
He looked at a document in his hand. After reading, he looked up to face me.
“From the information we have, you are the closest person to him. Apart from that, your pictures were found in his house” he paused again.
My lawyer objected to this argument. But he was not granted.
The Judge coughed, he was about to give a verdict on the case. I was remanded in prison for two months for the police officers to carry out their investigations.
I opened my eyes suddenly. The room was in darkness. I breathed heavily and sat on the bed. It was a terrible dream.
My mobile phone beeped. It was a Facebook notification; someone had sent a friend request to me.
I checked and I noticed the familiar face of the sender. He was an old friend from secondary school. My mind went back to the dream and I immediately declined the request. I heaved a sigh of relief.
Dream Example #3
I have never been in jail in real life. Call me a gentleman if you like; I obey the law religiously.
On the 2nd of January, 2015, however, I found myself in jail in the United States of America after retiring to bed in my village – Egume.
It is in the Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State, Noth-Central Nigeria.
In the dream, I was sent to jail for fighting.
A bearded, huge white man called me a nigger prompting me to beat him up to a pulp.
The Police later swooped on us and took us to jail in cuffs.
The dream seemed to last many days because I remember changing clothes in it. Not only that. I also ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner several times – very rich meals.
The meals I ate in that Californian jail are meals I only eat a semblance of only on Christmas Day here in Nigeria.
I was also allowed to enroll in a degree program right inside that jail. I settled for the Law program.
When it was 4 pm in that dream, we were told to go for sports. I went straight to the basketball court.
The last time I played basketball or any other game for that matter, was during my undergraduate days at the University of Lagos. This was between 1990 and 1995.
Our prison clothes, which were many and which we wore to suit the occasion, were always clean.
Shortly, I was brought before the jury right inside the jail. That is the form the dream took.
“Usman, ” the bearded man’s lawyer called out.
“Did you say you hit Roger (the bearded man) because he called you a nigger?”
“Yes, my lord, ” I responded.
“And you hit him several times all over his body?”
“Yes, my lord, ” I replied again.
“Do you know you took the law into your hands by that act?”
“Objection, my lord!” my lawyer – a rather short and bald man shouted.
“My client was extremely provoked, my lord!”
This back and forth continued for a while until the judge gave the ruling. He was a large old man with plenty of grey hair and a pair of glasses resting on his pointed nose.
My lawyer had won; I was discharged and acquitted since I had acted under extreme provocation. I could go home.
That was when the problem or what we call ‘wahala’ here in Nigeria started.
“My lord, please can I be allowed to stay back here and, at least, complete my Law program?” I asked.
“No, you cannot. Can’t you see? You are innocent, ” he explained.
“In that case, my lord, I am guilty; very guilty. I lied about Roger calling me a nigger. I swear to God! please, go ahead and jail me for four years, my lord, ” I pleaded.
The judge would have none of that. My lawyer was also so ashamed, he didn’t know what to say.
They started pushing me out of the jail while I was resisting with all my strength.
Roger held my left hand, his lawyer held my right hand, my lawyer held my left leg while the judge held my right leg. The struggle was very great. We were all sweating.
“My lord, I am not going anywhere; I am very, very guilty!” I screamed.
“That’s a lie, Usman. You are innocent and must go home, ” the judge replied. At a point, his glasses fell off his nose!
We were engaged in this epic struggle when I opened my eyes and saw my grandmother staring at me on my bed in the village. She was convinced witches and wizards had come to attack her “highly successful son who just came on holidays from the city.”
She was beginning to light the popular incense local folks use to chase witches and wizards away when I persuaded her that would not be necessary.
The incense has a pungent odor. I eventually succeeded in getting her off my back after accepting I had malaria after about one hour.
She left partially satisfied and returned with boiled ‘dogonyaro’ leaves – a very bitter concoction local folks use to treat malaria as soon as the day broke.
She forced me to drink it religiously for 3 days.
You don’t know my grandmother – Iyo, at all.
Dream Example #4
The floor and walls of the room felt so cold. Where could this place be? Did I travel back in time, or did I reincarnate into someone else?
My brain must be kidding me because a few moments ago was the summer of 2021, I had planned on going to spend the holiday with some close relatives.
It was a cloudy night, about 22:30. The moon outside greeted everyone with a half smile. Most shops, malls and stations were closed and people had retired for the day, save for a few fun-seeking people who were either going to nightclubs or hanging out in bars that were still open.
As I sat staring and surveying the premises from the comfort of my balcony, with a drink and chopped roasted spiced beef besides me, I heard the siren of the police patrol van.
As usual, it was the state’s police anti-crime taskforce, reading from the prints on the van as the ever bright street light shone on the body of the van.
The van eventually left the scene and I decided to stand up in order to stretch my legs. As I did, I looked far towards a large mall across the road by the far right of the street.
All over the mall, both inside and outside of it was awash with bright light, as people engaged in several activities.
As I watched on, another police van pulled over in front of the mall. Two officers came out of the van with their rifles. What could be happening tonight? Is there any security issue going on?
Interesting! The officers stopped a few people and they interrogated them. They did so for about fifteen minutes, stopping at least six people at different times.
Eventually, they entered their vehicle and moved on. As I observed, when they left the mall, they made a cross through the express way, and came directly through our street.
They parked their van right opposite my building as two officers looked up and stared at me. I felt so uncomfortable so I quietly went inside my apartment.
Curious to know what was going on I decided to watch through the window. So I pulled the curtains to the side, peeping with gaze.
Amazingly I saw another van pull over just behind the first van. The first van seemed to have called for reinforcement.
The time was 23:25pm. Two police officers approached the first van and they had a discussion for about five minutes.
While they were discussing, they took turns to look at my building, at times directly at my apartment.
This was disturbing, I dropped the curtain haven seen enough already. I went to bed so as to get ready for tomorrow’s journey.
Just halfway through between this world and the next, I heard gun shots. That was the last thing I remembered before I saw myself in this small room.
Oh! What? I was in a cage. This can’t be, I said to myself. I looked further and I saw something amazing and eye-dropping.
A man in uniform, and he was a jail warder, and I was in jail. What crime did I commit?
I only slept yesterday to prepare myself for today’s journey. As I was yet to receive answers to these mind-buggling questions, the prison warder then shouted, “hey, it’s time for role call, get up and get ready”.
That was the call that woke me up from my bed. Oh! What a relief. It was actually a dream. The time was 4:30am. Not wanting to go back to that dream I decided to read a book while waiting for dawn.
Dream interpretation and symbology have fascinated me ever since I read Freud’s classic, “The Interpretation of Dreams.” Ever since, I have explored Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist as well as Jungian psychological ideas about the meaning of dreams. Thanks for joining me in my exploration of the amazing intersection between our conscious waking world and the rich expanse of our subconscious-the home of our intuition, instincts, and hidden potential.