The character of "D.B. Cooper" is based on an actual person, who in 1971, after hijacking an airliner, extorted $200,000 from its owner, Northwest Orient, and leaped off the airborne plane with 21 pounds of $20 bills strapped to his body. He was never found. The theory is that he was killed because his parachute didn't deploy.
Paul Scheuring had said that the initial concept for the series (a man deliberately getting himself sent to prison in order to break out again) was suggested to him by a female colleague of his (Dawn Parouse). He thought it was a great idea, but was initially stumped as to why someone would embark on such a strange mission or how he could stretch the idea out long enough for a TV show. He later came up with the idea of the wrongfully accused brother, and the conspiracy subplot. He then started work on writing the pilot script for the show.
Several characters are named after presidents and politicians. Lincoln Burrows and Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell are named after Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Michael Scofield, Benjamin Miles "C-Note" Franklin and Alexander Mahone are named after politicians Edward Scofield, Benjamin Franklin and William Mahone. Also Paul Kellerman is named after Roy Kellerman, the Secret Service agent who was riding in President John F. Kennedy's limousine at the time of his assassination.
Michael Scofield's tattoo was designed by tattoo artist Tom Berg. Berg was asked to work on the show by Brett Ratner after previously designing the tattoo for the character of Francis Dolarhyde in Ratner's film Red Dragon (2002). Berg estimated that to get the tattoo done for real would take four years and would cost between fifteen and twenty thousand dollars. Berg also designed Haywire's sketches of the tattoo.
Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell play brothers in the show. They reunite as partners in crime in The Flash (S01E10), as Captain Cold and Heat Wave. They make several subtle references to Prison Break.
In Season 3, the two main characters, "T-Bag" and "Sucre," meet with the character "Lechero." If you take all their names, you get the main ingredients to make tea. T-bag, obviously, sucre is French for sugar and lechero is Esperanto for milk.
The idea for the show was originally pitched to the Fox Broadcasting Company in 2003 but was turned down as Fox felt somewhat nervous about the long-term possibilities of such a television series. It was later considered as a possible 10-part mini series, which allegedly drew interest from big names in the film industry such as Steven Spielberg and Bruce Willis. However, the mini series never materialized. Following the huge popularity of serialized prime-time television series such as 24 (2001) and Lost (2004), the Fox Network had a change of heart and backed the production in 2004.
According to an interview with Rockmond Dunbar the character of C-Note was only supposed to appear in the first 2 episodes but when the show was renewed for a full season C-Note's role was extended to a recurring character.
The electric chair is not used as a primary instrument of execution in the State of Illinois where the series is set. Originally, the method of execution scripted for Lincoln's death was via lethal injection. For shock value, however, this was changed to the electric chair. The State of Illinois currently has a moratorium on the death penalty.
The reflection sequence in Season 1, Episode 20 contains the theme song from the Fox tv show House M.D., which Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Robin Tunney separately guest starred on.
Wentworth Miller had previously auditioned for 'Superman: Flyby', a film which Brett Ratner was to direct but which was ultimately never made. Ratner was impressed by Miller's audition and recommended him to the producers of the show.
In a draft pilot dated December 2003; the prison was set to be the Real Life 'Supermax' Wallens Ridge Prison in Virginia, it was supposed to have a 60 minute run time, not the ~40 minutes it eventually did. Scofield's 'back number' was 55241, not 94941. Sucre's friend in the Prison Yard was C-Note, this changed to a different character called 'Wholesale'. Fibonacci was called Hill. Scofield was top of his class at Georgetown not Loyola. Scofield getting caught with the shank after the toilets were blocked off was in this episode, this was switched with Scofield attacking Abruzzi to lead to a second meeting with Pope.
Three characters from Season 1 go on to play characters in the show Chicago Fire, also based in Illinois. DuShon Monique Brown who plays Nurse Katie Welch goes on to play Connie, the firehouse secretary. Christian Stolte who plays Corrections Officer Keith Stolte goes on to play Randall "Mouch" McHolland. Joe Minoso who plays Chaz Fink, the video analyst, goes on to play Joe Cruz.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the season 1 finale, the character of Dr. Sara Tancredi was originally intended to have been killed off from the drug overdose. However due to the network's request, the popularity of the character and Robin Tunney wanting to move on to other endeavors, Sara remained alive for season 2 while the show's other female lead Veronica Donovan was killed off in her place.
Sarah Wayne Callies''s character was killed in season 3 because the actress was visibly pregnant when shooting began. Sarah Tancredi was going to remain dead, but the renewal for a fourth season because of the writers' strike allowed her to return and an explanation was made up (Tancredi ran away from her kidnappers).
In Season 2 Scofield mentions a web forum on a site www.europeangoldfinch.net. That site does exist. Moreover, if you see the forum, you can actually see a thread called "The Bag's still got THE BAG", which was a message M. Scofield received from Sucre at the end of Season 2. Since then this domain was acquired by fox.com and is no longer accesible. Nevertheless, you can see the forum contents in web.archive.org easily, including Scofield's message.
Of the 17 people to be listed as series regulars over the show's run, the characters of Veronica Donovan and Sofia Lugo were the only ones to never be arrested. They each however were held hostage at one point.
Four actors from the show later went on to star in The Walking Dead. Sarah Wayne Callie played Dr. Sara Tancredi on Prison Break and went on to play Lori Grimes on The Walking Dead. Michael Cudlitz played Rookie Corrections Officer Bob (who is murdered in season 1 of Prison Break) and went on to play Abraham Ford on The Walking Dead. Andrew Rothenberg played the psych ward nurse on Prison Break and went on to play Jim on The Walking Dead. Karl Maniken played Richard on The Walking Dead.