20 Best Songs About Jail

Richard Ellison

It’s no secret that music is often a reflection of our lives and experiences.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the 20 best songs about jail.

These songs explore the various aspects of life behind bars, from the pain of being incarcerated to the joys of reuniting with loved ones.

Whether you’re looking for music to reflect your own experiences with incarceration or simply want to learn more about this difficult aspect of life, this list is sure to have something that piques your interest.

By the way, if you’re a fan of songs about jail, you might also enjoy songs about bars, songs about crimes, songs about farm life, and songs about the police.

I Fought the Law – The Clash

The Clash - I Fought the Law (Official Video)

“I Fought the Law” is a song written by Sonny Curtis of the Crickets.

It was first recorded by Bobby Fuller Four in 1966 and became a hit, reaching#9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

In 1978, it was covered by the punk rock band the Clash, and this version became more popular than the original.

The song is about a man who has been arrested and is telling his side of the story.

He insists that he did nothing wrong, but the law doesn’t see it that way.

He’s been sentenced to jail, and he’s not happy about it.

Despite its dark subject matter, “I Fought the Law” is an upbeat song with a catchy hook. 

Chains – Nick Jonas

Nick Jonas - Chains

“Chains” is a song by American singer Nick Jonas. It was released on July 27, 2014 as the second single from Jonas’ self-titled album.

The song was written by Jonas, Mike Posner and Mason Levy, and was produced by Matty Donalds. “Chains” is a mid-tempo R&B song with instrumentation provided by piano and guitars.

Lyrically, the song is about being in a relationship with someone who is in jail.

Despite being in jail, the subject of the song is still able to feel the love of their partner.

“Chains” peaked at number 24 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it Jonas’ highest charting single as a solo artist.

Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock (Official Audio)

The song “Jailhouse Rock” is perhaps one of the most famous songs by Elvis Presley, tracing its origins all the way back to the 50s.

The heart of the song is about a young man who has been sent to jail and struggling with how he got there.

Throughout the song, he reflects on his troubled past and growing disillusionment with the music scene, ultimately coming to accept his fate in prison.

This message of self-reflection and redemption makes “Jailhouse Rock” a powerful and enduring work, with its impact still clearly felt today. 

Prison Song – System Of A Down

System Of A Down - Prison Song (Music Video)

Prison Song by System of a Down is a powerful track that reflects on the experience of those who are incarcerated in jail.

With its driving rhythms and fiery guitar riffs, the song paints a vivid picture of what it is like to be behind bars.

The lyrics articulate the feelings of isolation and frustration that inmates often struggle with, as well as the powerlessness they sometimes feel in the face of an unjust justice system.

Ultimately, Prison Song is a moving tribute to all those who have had to endure life in prison, both those who are currently locked up and those who have since been released.

Still Doing Time – George Jones

Still Doing Time is a song written by George Jones.

The song is about being in jail and how hard it is to do time.

The narrator is talking to his girlfriend on the phone and she is telling him that she is going to move on without him.

The narrator is trying to tell her that he is still doing time even though he is not in jail.

He is trying to tell her that he is still in love with her and that he will never forget her.

The song is about how hard it is to be in jail and how hard it is to do time.

The song is also about how hard it is to move on from someone you love.

My Own Prison – Creed

Creed - My Own Prison

My Own Prison is a powerful song by the band Creed that explores the difficult and often dehumanizing experience of incarceration.

This key lyric evokes the sense of control that prison authorities often wield over their inmates, who are stripped of many basic freedoms and living conditions.

Throughout the rest of the song, we hear about how inmates must navigate this harsh environment, dealing with gang violence, crowded cells, hunger, and other challenges.

But despite these obstacles, we are ultimately left with a sense of hope, as the lyrics encourage us to strive for a better world beyond bars.

In short, My Own Prison is an exceptional song that captures both the stark reality of prison life and the power that can come from fighting back against injustice.

Chain Gang – Sam Cooke

Chain Gang (Remastered)

Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” is a song about the struggles of life in jail.

Released in 1960, the song became one of Cooke’s most popular hits, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The song’s lyrics tell the story of a man who is serving time on a chain gang, forced to work in harsh conditions with no hope of escape.

Though he is surrounded by despair, the man remains hopeful that one day he will be free.

The song’s simple yet powerful message resonated with many listeners, and it continues to be an anthem for those who have been affected by the criminal justice system.

“Chain Gang” is a chilling reminder of the harsh realities of life behind bars, and its impact has endured for over 50 years.

Back On The Chain Gang – morrissey

Morrissey - Back on the Chain Gang (Official Video)

Back On The Chain Gang is a song by Morrissey, released in 1992.

The song is about a person who is incarcerated and longing for freedom.

The lyrics talk about the person’s struggles while in jail, and how they are eager to get back on the “chain gang” and return to their life outside of prison.

The song is seen as a commentary on the prison system, and its ability to break down people’s spirits.

The song was popular among Morrissey fans, and helped to solidify his position as one of the most important voices in British music.

Mama Tried – Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard - Mama Tried (Live)

Mama Tried is a song written and performed by country musician Merle Haggard.

Released in 1968, the song tells the story of a young man who is sent to prison for a crime he did not commit.

Despite his mother’s best efforts to keep him out of trouble, the young man ultimately falls in with a bad crowd and ends up behind bars.

Throughout the song, Haggard reflects on the choices that led him to prison, and how different his life could have been if he had made different choices.

While the song is ostensibly about jail, it also serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of poor choices.

As such, Mama Tried remains one of Haggard’s most popular and enduring songs.

Locked Up – Akon

Akon - Locked Up (Official Music Video) ft. Styles P

Locked Up is a song by Akon about the experience of being in jail.

The song reflects on the tough reality of life behind bars, and how it can be both a physical and mental challenge.

It also touches on the issue of race and how minorities are disproportionately represented in the prison population.

The song has an upbeat tempo, but the lyrics make it clear that the experience of being in jail is anything but fun.

Akon himself has experienced time in jail, which likely contributes to the authenticity of the song.

Overall, Locked Up provides a realistic and powerful look at life behind bars.

Prisoner – The Weeknd

The Weeknd - Prisoner ft. Lana Del Rey

The Weeknd’s song “Prisoner” is a haunting ballad about the experience of being in jail.

The lyrics tell the story of a man who is struggling to cope with the isolation and loneliness of prison life.

The song also touches on the theme of lost love, as the protagonist reflects on his relationship with a woman who is now out of reach.

“Prisoner” is a moving exploration of the human capacity for hope and resilience in the face of adversity.

The song has resonated with many listeners who have experienced firsthand the hardship of life behind bars.

For many, “Prisoner” is an anthem of hope and liberation.

Ol’ Red – Blake Shelton

Blake Shelton - Ol' Red (Official Music Video)

Ol’ Red is a song written and performed by Blake Shelton.

It was released in 2002 as part of his self-titled debut album.

The song tells the story of a man who is sentenced to life in prison for a crime he did not commit.

However, he is able to find hope and redemption through his love for music.

The song was inspired by Shelton’s own experience visiting a friend in jail.

Ol’ Red has been praised for its emotional power and Shelton’s ability to evoke empathy for the character.

It is considered one of his signature songs and has been covered by several other artists.

Billy Austin – Steve Earle & The Dukes

Steve Earle & The Dukes - Billy Austin

Billy Austin was written by Steve Earle and released on his 1996 album I Feel Alright.

The song tells the story of a man who is serving a life sentence in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Despite the unfairness of his situation, Billy remains hopeful that one day he will be freed.

Earle’s song highlights the harsh reality of life behind bars, but also the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

Billy Austin is just one example of the many prisoners who are wrongfully incarcerated each year.

With its moving lyrics and powerful message, the song provides a voice for those who have been silenced by the justice system.

Rusty Cage – Soundgarden

Soundgarden - Rusty Cage

Rusty Cage is a song about life behind bars, told from the perspective of an inmate struggling to adapt to his new surroundings.

The lyrics evoke the monotony and uncertainty of prison life, with images of boredom and dread interspersed with moments of rage and rebellion.

The narrator describes feeling hemmed in by the harsh concrete walls that surround him, yearning for freedom even as he is resigned to his fate.

By drawing on gritty imagery and raw emotion, Rusty Cage successfully captures the experience of being trapped in a place that you can’t escape.

High Cost of Living – Jamey Johnson

Jamey Johnson - High Cost of Living - Music Video - Clifton Collins Jr.

High cost of living is a problem that many people face. In the United States, the cost of living has been rising steadily for years, and this has put a strain on many families.

One way that people have tried to cope with the high cost of living is by going to jail.

This may seem like an extreme solution, but for some people it is the only way to get by.

Jamey Johnson’s song “High Cost of Living” is about this issue.

In the song, Johnson tells the story of a man who goes to jail because he can’t afford to pay his bills.

The man is struggling to make ends meet, and he hopes that going to jail will help him get his life back on track.

Unfortunately, the man quickly realizes that jail is not the answer to his problems.

The high cost of living is still a problem, and it is one that many people are struggling to deal with.

Prisoner of Your Eyes – Judas Priest

Judas Priest - Devil's Child (Live) [Official Audio]

Prisoner of Your Eyes is a song by Judas Priest that explores the terrible consequences of a life of crime.

Written from the point of view of an incarcerated prisoner, this powerful track paints a grim portrait of life behind bars and the emotional hardship faced by those who have been condemned to incarceration.

Through its haunting lyrics and heavy guitar riffs, Prisoner of Your Eyes connects with listeners on an emotional level, offering a poignant reminder about the risks and dangers associated with criminal activity.

Jailbreak – Thin Lizzy

Written by Phil Lynott and released in 1976, “Jailbreak” is one of Thin Lizzy’s most famous songs.

The song is about a group of prisoners who escape from jail and make a break for freedom.

While the lyrics are light-hearted, the underlying message is serious; jail is not a place for people who have committed crimes, but rather a place for people who have been wrongfully accused.

The song was inspired by Lynott’s own experience of being wrongly imprisoned, and it speaks to the injustices that occur in the justice system. “Jailbreak” is an anthem for those who have been wronged, and it remains one of Thin Lizzy’s most popular songs.

Chains – Patty Loveless

Patty Loveless - Chains (Official Video)

Chains, by Patty Loveless, is a poignant ballad about the experience of incarceration.

The song opens with a voiceover describing the barren landscape of a prison cell and the loneliness that can permeate one’s days behind bars.

As the main refrain kicks in, Patty Loveless sings powerfully about how hard it can be to stay strong and hopeful while trapped in these harsh conditions.

Throughout the song, she highlights the profound sense of isolation that people in jail often feel and emphasizes their need for human connection and support. 

Famous In A Small Town – Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert - Famous In A Small Town (Video)

“Famous in a Small Town” is a song by American country music singer Miranda Lambert.

The song was released as the fourth single from her album, Kerosene.

“Famous in a Small Town” is a ballad that tells the story of small-town life, and how fame can sometimes be a double-edged sword.

The song was inspired by Lambert’s own experience growing up in Lindale, Texas.

Though she loved her small-town home, she often felt like she was living in a fishbowl, and everyone always seemed to know her business.

The song’s narrators dreams ofescape, but ultimately decides that there’s no place like home. 

Band On The Run – Paul McCartney & Wings

Paul McCartney & Wings 'Band on the Run' (Lyric Video)

Band on the Run is a song by Paul McCartney and his band Wings, released in 1973.

The song tells the story of a group of prisoners who are struggling to escape from jail.

While locked up behind bars, they form a band in order to vent their frustrations and pass the time.

Despite numerous setbacks and challenges, they refuse to give up on their dreams and eventually break free from their confinement.

This powerful message about perseverance and determination continues to inspire listeners all around the world, making Band on the Run one of the most beloved songs in pop music history.