The only prison that I can remember being mentioned in Harry Potter is Azkaban. Some simple research indicates one person was imprisoned for owning Sphinxes and Hagrid was sent there, apparently as a precautionary measure, after the re-opening of the Chamber of Secrets. This implies that even though living in Azkaban is a terrible ordeal, that it's possible to be sent there for smaller crimes.

Are there other prisons in the magical world, or is Azkaban the only one? And if there are, has JKR ever made any comments about why one would be sent to Azkaban as opposed to another prison?

Are there also prisons that might be more like a "minimum security" setup without dementors for lesser crimes?

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    I haven't got anything to back it up (yet), but I get the idea it's the only one in Britain. But there have to be more in the world, I'm sure each country has at least one. – Kevin Jan 23 '12 at 5:19
  • I don't know what the source is but, on there is a list of prisons on the wiki: harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Prisons – TGar Jun 9 '17 at 9:46

No. We know at least of Nurmengard, where Gellert Grindelwald is imprisoned. Voldemort visits (that's probably an overly kind description) Grindelwald in his cell in search of the Elder Wand.

From the HP Lexicon:

A towering, "jet-black" wizarding prison built by Gellert Grindelwald to hold his enemies, Nurmengard is a forbidding place (DH18, DH23). Carved over the entrance is Grindelwald's grim mantra: "For the Greater Good" (DH18). And when Grindelwald was defeated by Albus Dumbledore in 1945, he himself was placed in the topmost cell of the tower, held captive for over fifty years (DH18, DH24) where he eventually began to show some remorse (DH35). Finally, in 1998, Voldemort sought Grindelwald out here, looking for information on the Elder Wand, and killed him (DH23).

HP Lexicon - Nurmengard

ETA: A cursory search doesn't turn up specific quotes from JKR re: why a prisoner would go to Azkaban as opposed to another wizarding prison, but I would wager that wizards and witches who commit an offense in the UK go to Azkaban. For example, Igor Karkaroff, a foreign-born Death Eater caught in the UK, did his time in Azkaban rather than Nurmengard.

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    This doesn't technically disqualify Nurmengarde as an answer, but it was built by Grindelwald to hold opponents, not by a government to hold criminals. There must be prisons built by governments, though I don't think we see any. Any mention in Pottermore or other JKR conversations? – Kevin Jan 23 '12 at 5:27
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    One might consider that Grindelwald was the government at the time he build Nurmengard -- a dictatorship is a recognised form of government (if one can liken a dark wizard taking over a country and ruling it with fear, murder, prejudice, and no mercy) Dictators imprison their opponents. Here in the US there are both government-run and private prisons, both of which are utilised by governments. In the US, it's common for prisoners to do time in a state other than the one in which they committed their crime. So there is that model. There's no other mentions of it as far as I know. :) – Slytherincess Jan 23 '12 at 6:08
  • @Slytherincess - but it wasn't a functional prison AFTER his defeat. No clear canon but sounded like he was the only one improsoned there, ala Saruman in Orthank. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 23 '12 at 10:19
  • @DVK - Well, if there's no clear canon, we can't say one way or the other, can we? It's 50-50 that Grindelwald we held alone in Nurmengard. From a fiscal point of view, it doesn't make sense to keep a large prison open for just one inmate. I think Nurmengard is Europe's prison, ala Azkaban. :) – Slytherincess Jan 23 '12 at 19:34
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    @DVK-on-Ahch-To: A prison with one inmate is still a prison. Rowling may well have modelled Nurmengard (allegedly named after Nuremberg, where the German war criminals were tried) after Spandau Prison, which between 1966 and 1987 only housed one prisoner (Rudolf Heß, deputy Führer during the Nazi time). As Slytherincess already suspected, that wasn’t particularly economical, but the Four Powers couldn’t agree on a different solution. – chirlu Jun 9 '17 at 8:32

The Harry Potter series is centered around events in Great Britain. So many of the things (such as magical authorities) outside of Great Britain are unknown.

However the Azkaban wiki article says this:

It is known that there are other wizarding prisons elsewhere, such as Nurmengard.

Nurmengard is the prison that Grindelwald built.

The prison was built on the orders of the Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald at the height of his power, in order to hold his opponents. Grindelwald's slogan "For the Greater Good" is carved over the prison's entrance.

I think that they only kept it around for him though.

In a display of irony Grindelwald was collared in the top-most cell inside his own prison, rather than killed, after his defeat. It is unknown if there were any other prisoners ever held at Nurmengard but around the time of Grindelwald's death, it is highly likely that he was the only prisoner present; all other past inmates having been incarcerated at the ex-Dark Lords behest.

Karkaroff specifically says your Ministry of Magic to Dumbledore during the Tri-Wizard Tournament. This suggests other countries have other governing bodies for Magic. As such it is likely they also have other prisons and means of incarceration.

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Azkaban is currently the only wizarding prison in Britain

Once the International Statute of Secrecy had been imposed, the Ministry of Magic felt that the small wizarding prisons that existed up and down the country in various towns and villages posed a security risk, because attempts by incarcerated witches and wizards to break out often led to undesirable bangs, smells and light shows. A purpose-built prison, located on some remote Hebridean island, was preferred, and plans had been drawn up when Damocles Rowle became Minister for Magic.

Rowle was an authoritarian who had risen to power on an anti-Muggle agenda, capitalising on the anger felt by much of the wizarding community at being forced to go underground. Sadistic by nature, Rowle scrapped the plans for the new prison at once and insisted on using Azkaban. He claimed that the Dementors living there were an advantage: they could be harnessed as guards, saving the Ministry time, trouble and expense.

Pottermore - Azkaban

The implication given is that other countries would have their own wizarding prisons, but due to the books focus on England, we never learn hear about them.

The only other prison that we do hear about is Nurmengard, but it appears to be no longer used a regular prison.

They say “For the Greater Good” was even carved over the entrance to Nurmengard.’

‘What’s Nurmengard?’

‘The prison Grindelwald had built to hold his opponents. He ended up in there himself, once Dumbledore had caught him.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 18

So to answer your questions:

  1. There are other prisons in the magical world, just not in Britain.

  2. People from Britain are sent to Azkaban. People from other countries are not.

  3. "Minimum security" setup prisons for lesser crimes existed prior to the adoption of the Statute of Secrecy.

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  • Is there anything from Fantastic Beasts etc. that might help with this? Surely Grindelwald wasn’t imprisoned in Nurmengard the first time around, and Azkaban would be an odd choice since he was caught in the USA. – Adamant Jun 9 '17 at 8:04
  • @Adamant - We'll likely find out in part two, when he (SPOILER) breaks out. – ibid Jun 9 '17 at 13:49

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