Azkaban

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Azkaban is the wizard prison in the Harry Potter series of books by J. K. Rowling. Wizards who violate the laws of the wizarding community are sent here. By the start of the series, Azkaban is guarded by the foul dementors working under the Ministry of Magic. Generally, only very severe crimes are punished with a term in Azkaban. Many of the prisoners were supporters of Lord Voldemort.

Azkaban has a horrible and justified reputation. Its remote location is more of a precaution than a safety measure—the mass presence of dementors renders the inmates incapable of happiness and forced to relieve their worst memories, not to mention gradually helpless and very often severely insane. As dementors are even extremely difficult to injure—the only spell effective against them is the Patronus Charm, which only repels them—Azkaban was long considered escape-proof.

According to Sirius Black, because of the effects of the soul-sucking dementors many inmates of Azkaban simply stop eating and eventually die of starvation.

Prime among the crimes for which someone can be sent to Azkaban is the performing of one of the three Unforgivable Curses: the Imperius Curse, the Cruciatus Curse, and the Avada Kedavra. Performing one of these curses against any human is punishable by an automatic life sentence at Azkaban.

Azkaban has not played a direct part in the series, but lurks in the sidelines from time to time. In the second book, Hagrid is placed under temporary imprisonment at Azkaban, an experience so traumatic that he refuses to talk about it after being released. Sirius Black becomes the first wizard known to break out of Azkaban (he was actually preceded by Barty Crouch Jr., who managed to avoid detection) in the third book. Albus Dumbledore once declared in front of the then minister of magic, Cornelius Fudge, that he could easily break out of Azkaban.

At the present moment Azkaban has been severely compromised; Professor Dumbledore has always been vocal in declaring that it was a mistake to guard Voldemort's greatest supporters with those creatures who have the most to gain if Voldemort returned to power. In the fifth book, this is in fact what happens. The Dementors leave their posts at Azkaban and join ranks with Voldemort. The prison still appears to be in use, but its emasculation has greatly harmed its effectiveness.

Inspiration

It has been often suggested that Azkaban is based on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. Some of the reasons follow:

  • The names are similar
  • They are both located on an island
  • Both were believed escape-proof, until it was proved otherwise (though it is presumed no one escaped from Alcatraz and lived)
  • Both are/were for high offenders, such as those who have committed murder (although Azkaban may also house those who have committed less serious offences).pt:Azkaban

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